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European Commission chief Donald Tusk to meet Varadkar in Brexit crunch talks today

The UK wants to progress negotiations to the next stage but the EU isn’t satisfied.

Donald Tusk
Donald Tusk
Image: Lemouton Stephane via PA Images

EUROPEAN COUNCIL PRESIDENT Donald Tusk is to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar later today, as Brexit talks rumble on.

Tusk and Varadkar are expected to discuss the border issue, the rights of EU citizens in the UK post-Brexit and the UK’s financial situation.

Talks between the UK, Ireland and the EU have become increasingly tense in the lead up a crucial EU Summit later this month and Monday’s meeting between British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker.

The Northern Ireland border has proved to be a significant sticking point in negotiation talks in recent weeks, with political parties here more or less united on the issue.

However, the UK – for its part – wants to leave the EU customs union and the single market, but also doesn’t want a hard border. So far, these positions have been irreconcilable.

The UK wants to progress negotiations to crucial issues of trade deals after Brexit, arguing that the border issues will be ironed out as these negotiations progress. Both Ireland and the EU are looking for firmer commitments from the UK before talks can move on.

The head of the largest group in the European Parliament has said there can be no progress made in phase two of the Brexit negotiations if the UK doesn’t provide assurances on the border issue.

Speaking to RTÉ News, German MEP Manfred Weber said that the Irish issue is of equal importance to the other key issues of Britain’s financial situation and the rights of EU citizens.

Conflicting views 

This week, DUP MP Ian Paisley Jr said that Northern Ireland shouldn’t remain in the customs union or have a “special status” after Brexit.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Paisley Jr said that all of the UK would be leaving the customs’ union and single market but that didn’t mean that border posts would be necessary.

He also said that, while he respected Ireland’s position, the country “would be better off” leaving the EU, adding that “we could do an awful lot more together”.

Speaking Wednesday’s on BBC’s Newsnight, Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Michael Creed said Ireland had put forward what it wanted, and now it was time for the UK to come up with a reasonable offer.

“What’s clearly incumbent on Theresa May and her government and her negotiating team is to articulate an alternative which doesn’t give rise to a hard border because everybody is agreed that we do not want a hard border,” he said.

Not just for trade reasons but because of the long lessons of history that we have learnt to our great cost. Not just financially but indeed a higher cost over many, many years.

Read: Ian Paisley Jr: ‘We’re leaving the EU and Ireland would be better off leaving with us’

More: Department ‘absolutely refutes’ claim that Irish officials were told to ignore Boris Johnson

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