UK's ex-Brexit Secretary pours cold water on May's deal


The European Union's Brexit negotiator says gaps must still be bridged in talks on the U.K.'s departure from the bloc, with time running out to secure a deal.

Up against a ticking clock to get a detailed plan in place before Britain leaves the European Union in March 2019, May is battling to find a way to meet the often contradictory demands from Brussels and rival factions within her Conservative Party.

The question of how to avoid a "hard border" between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic after Brexit has proved to be the toughest issue in the exit talks.

As reported by Reuters, UK Prime Minister Theresa May's office announced on Tuesday that the Brexit-battered PM has established five business councils to advise on post-Brexit issues following the EU-UK divorce. "We're very close now", Sipila told reporters.

Should that be possible, European Union and British Brexit negotiators would recommend that "decisive progress" has been achieved in Brexit talks and the European Union would call a special summit of its 27 national leaders to endorse it.

In Paris, Britain's foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said Brexit negotiations are in "the final phase" and he is confident an agreement will be reached.

Later, addressing leaders of the European People's Party group, Barnier warned of the threat that rising nationalism and populism pose to the EU ahead of European Parliament elections in May.

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Former Brexit secretary David Davis said the full government legal advice on Brexit must be published and insisted how the United Kingdom could exit from the customs union must be "pinned down" before MPs and peers vote on the deal.

"This election will be tougher than those before", Barnier said.

"We'll have to fight against those who want to demolish Europe, with their populist deceit, with their attacks against the European project", Barnier said. "There is now a Farage in every country".

Brexit is expected to dominate the agenda of the British Irish Council, which also involves the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones.

Europe's incapacity to manage migration has fueled far-right sentiment across the continent and many worry that nationalists might make more progress in May.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that, while the Attorney General's legal advice to government is considered confidential, he could answer MP's questions about it.