May makes dawn flight to Brussels as Brexit seems done

Prime Minister Theresa May with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

Brexit talks ground to a halt last week over issues surrounding Northern Ireland's soft border with Ireland.

The Prime Minister is under pressure to make progress in talks with Brussels amid an impasse over the border.

Mrs May has got the deal that she needed - and the agreement that businesses were clamouring for.

May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker could meet early on Friday to seal a border deal, the European Commission's chief spokesman said. That would start trade negotiations about Britain's post-E.U. relationship with its neighbors.

When the European Commission announced that satisfactory progress had been made to move to the trade and transition phase of the EU divorce, sterling was up by 0.4% against the euro and 0.3% against the dollar. "This was a hard negotiation for the European Union as well as for the United Kingdom".

Britons will also be watching to see if talks live up to what was promised: they were told that Brexit would mean free trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world, controls on European immigration and the repatriation of regulation.

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Stephen Martin, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said: "It went right down to the wire, but businesses will be breathing a huge sigh of relief that the United Kingdom and European Commission have reached agreement on phase one issues, putting us in a good position going into the Council meeting next week".

The EU will only agree to discuss this when it judges that enough progress has been made on the "separation issues" - the "divorce bill", expat citizens' rights and the Northern Ireland border - that have been the subject of negotiations so far. Pro-Brexit Conservatives loathe the court, seeing it as a symbol of lost sovereignty. "I don't believe that the City will fall apart and that everyone will flee".

European Union leaders are due to decide at a summit next week whether Brexit talks can move on to a new phase.

That "seems to be the only reasonable solution, and it is in the interest of all of our citizens that it be agreed as soon as possible", Tusk said. Currency traders are taking a bet that this is the case.

Britain is due to exit the single market and customs union in 2019.

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