Irish foreign minister says Brexit border breakthrough possible today

The talks have been described as a 'staging post&apos by the Government

Earlier in the day, European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that he was "encouraged" that sufficient progress was being made on the key Brexit issues, following a phone call with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

London has broadly agreed to numerous EU's divorce terms, including paying out something like 50 billion euros.

European Union lawmaker Philippe Lamberts, who met Juncker earlier on Monday, said the draft text on Ireland would commit Britain to "full alignment" on rules.

Mrs May hopes to achieve a breakthrough during her visit to Brussels to meet Mr Juncker and European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday.

Mr Juncker insisted that a deal could still be reached this week, having described Mrs May as a "tough negotiator".

Dublin has claimed the United Kingdom government has not yet tabled a serious or credible plan to avoiding a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit, if the United Kingdom quits the EU's single market and customs union.

"Hopefully, we'll find a way forward today", Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE ahead of a cabinet meeting to discuss the issue before May's talks. The lack of progress so far has raised concerns that Britain may not have a deal by the time it officially leaves on March 29, 2019. The pro-British Unionist party opposes any special status that could take Northern Ireland further from Britain and closer to the Republic of Ireland.

"Crucially it is clear that we want to move forward together, but on a couple of issues, differences do remain, which require further negotiation and consultation", said May before heading to meet President of the European Council Donald Tusk nearly one-hour late than scheduled. Juncker first met with Brexit experts from the European Parliament, which will eventually have to endorse any departure deal.

The UK government has repeatedly insisted many of these questions can not be answered until the next stage of Brexit talks - on a transition period and a future EU-UK trading and customs relationship - is allowed to begin. "This is the start of the very last", he was quoted as saying.

"And the problem between the Republic and Northern Ireland is a effect of the British decision not only to leave the EU but also the single market and the customs union".

With the clock ticking down to the March 2019 exit date, May is under pressure to start talks on its future trade ties by the end of the year to remove the cloud of uncertainty for companies that do business in the EU.

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