September 17, 2018 / 12:38 PM / 2 months ago

EU says more talks needed on Irish border issue to reach Brexit deal

EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier attends a meeting with Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Foreing Minister Josep Borrell (not pictured) at Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, September 17, 2018. REUTERS/Juan Medina

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union and Britain still have work to do to settle a range of issues in Brexit negotiations including avoiding a “hard” border in Ireland, the EU said before its negotiator Michel Barnier briefs ministers from member states.

Barnier will update the ministers from the 27 countries that will remain in the EU on progress of the negotiations on Tuesday, the note said. This will precede an EU summit in the Austrian city of Salzburg on Wednesday and Thursday.

“Some parts of the draft withdrawal agreement have already been agreed in principle by the UK and the EU negotiators, although nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,” the note, seen by Reuters, said.

“There are still parts of the withdrawal agreement that require further negotiation. One of them is the issue of how to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.”

Both sides are keen to avoid controls on the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Irish republic, which will become the only land frontier between the UK and EU after Brexit day six months from now. However, agreement on a practical solution has remained elusive so far.

The note said other outstanding issues included policing of the deal, protecting data and special local goods.

“An agreement on a future relationship can only be negotiated and concluded once the UK has become a third country. However, an overall understanding on the framework for the future relationship will be set out in a political declaration accompanying... the withdrawal agreement,” it added.

Visiting Madrid on Tuesday, Barnier said separately the negotiations were continuing in “spirit of good cooperation” as the International Monetary Fund warned Britain’s economy would shrink if the country left the EU without a Brexit deal.

Separately, British Prime Minister Theresa May defended her Brexit strategy as the only realistic one, saying the country otherwise risked the most bruising no-deal Brexit.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Toby Chopra and David Stamp

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