November 9, 2018 / 8:20 AM / 13 days ago

British minister optimistic about Brexit deal with EU: Funke

BERLIN (Reuters) - Britain’s junior Brexit minister told a German media outlet he was optimistic that Britain and the European Union would reach a Brexit deal soon, adding that he hoped this would happen in the next three weeks.

Robin Walker told the Funke group of newspapers that Brexit negotiations were progressing in a constructive manner and that there was agreement on more than 95 percent of the deal. Compromises have been reached on issues ranging from citizens’ rights and financial issues to the implementation period.

“I’m optimistic Britain and the EU will reach a breakthrough in Brexit negotiations in the near future,” he said, adding that constructive talks on questions of detail made him feel upbeat.

Britain wants to strike an agreement with the EU as quickly as possible and it would be desirable for Britain and the EU to reach a deal at a special EU summit in November, he added.

Walker said the EU and Britain both needed to show flexibility and imagination.

He said the two sides were discussing how to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

One of the scenarios being discussed is Britain remaining in a customs agreement with the EU for a limited period even after the end of the transition period on December 31, 2020, which would avoid the introduction of new border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland, Walker said.

The EU wants a customs border in the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, a letter from Theresa May seen by the London Times newspaper suggested.

But Walker said: “The United Kingdom will not consider a customs border between Northern Ireland and Britain in the Irish Sea.”

Walker said he did not think a disorderly Brexit was likely, but he added that if it did come to that the rights of EU citizens in Britain would be protected.

Reporting by Michelle Martin; editing by Thomas Seythal

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