BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union Commissioner Phil Hogan said on Wednesday he expected “movement” from Britain in the next few days on how to avoid setting up a physical border between Northern Ireland and Ireland after the United Kingdom leaves the EU in 2019.
Speaking at a news conference, Hogan, an Irishman, said Britain has already moved in the last 24 hours on the financial settlement of the divorce between Britain and the EU ahead of a key European leaders’ summit on Dec 14-15.
“In the same way .. I expect we will see movement in this regard in the next few days as well,” Hogan said.
“And hopefully we will, because nobody wants to see a situation where we have to again, in December, declare insufficient progress in order to allow the next phase,” he said.
The EU summit in mid-December is to establish if “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce talks in three areas - the financial settlement, the Ireland/Northern Ireland border and citizens’ rights. Such progress would allow the start of talks on a future trade agreement with Britain, crucial for British businesses.
“While we all want to see a soft Brexit in the context of a frictionless trading arrangement and frictionless freedom of movement of people on the border between northern and southern Ireland, we don’t hear much detail in terms of the how, in relation to how that’s going to be achieved by the United Kingdom at this stage,” Hogan said.
“I’m sure our friends in the United Kingdom are quite concerned about that and they understand what they have to do.”
Reporting By Jan Strupczewski and Philip Blenkinsop