European Union says progress in next 2 weeks is key

British Prime Minister Theresa May Theresa May speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday Oct. 20 2017

British Prime Minister Theresa May Theresa May speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels on Friday Oct. 20 2017

Britain has been given an ultimatum by the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

"Only sufficient progress - that is to say honest and real progress - on the three main key issues of these negotiations will enable the triggering of the second phase of our negotiation", Barnier said, according to a web broadcast of the briefing.

This comes weeks before a summit in December, which is seen as critical and at a time when Prime Minister Theresa May is hoping that European Union leaders will agree to talk about future trade with the UK.

But since progress was slow again this week, Barnier confirmed that real advances in the talks must be made in the next two weeks to stay within striking distance for the next summit.

David Davis insisted again today that there is a need for "creativity and sensitivity" on both sides to solve the issue of the Northern Ireland border - but the European Union have said much more work needs to be done before we can move onto talking trade.

The government says it plans to enshrine in law the date and time of the U.K.'s departure - 11 p.m. on March 29, 2019 - as a protection against delay.

"It consequently seems essential for the United Kingdom to commit to ensuring that a hard border on the island of Ireland is avoided, including by ensuring no emergence of regulatory divergence from those rules of the internal market and the customs union", the paper says.

In Berlin, Steffen Seibert, spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday that "it is indeed in Great Britain's hands to create the conditions that would make it possible" to move to the next phase of trade relations.

British voters opted to leave the European Union in a referendum over a year ago and Brexit negotiations are supposed to be finalized in March 2019.

"We will leave the European Union in 2019 as one United Kingdom", he said on Monday.

"We are, of course, watching it very closely", he added. Pro-EU lawmakers say they will try to amend it to give Parliament a veto on any deal with the bloc.

John Kerr, who drafted Article 50 of the EU's key treaty, said that "while the divorce talks proceed the parties are still married".

Kerr said the British government has misled voters into believing the process is unstoppable.

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