'The EU has thrown down an ultimatum to Theresa May in Brexit talks, warning that it will not open discussions about trade or other issues until the Irish border question is solved.
Speaking in Dublin alongside the Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar, European Council president Donald Tusk said talks would be a case of “Ireland first” and that “the risk of destabilising the fragile peace process must be avoided at all costs”.
“We know today that the UK government rejects a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, the EU single market, and the customs union,” the Council president said.
“While we must respect this position, we also expect the UK to propose a specific and realistic solution to avoid a hard border.
“As long as the UK doesn’t present such a solution, it is very difficult to imagine substantive progress in Brexit negotiations.
“If in London someone assume that the negotiations will deal with other issues first before than the Irish issue, my response would be: Ireland first.”
British negotiators have long been keen to move to discussions about trade and had hoped to do so after the March meeting of the European Council in two weeks, but Mr Tusk's latest ultimatum suggests further delays could be in store. The EU says a withdrawal agreement must be negotiated by October to give it time to ratify the deal before the UK falls out of the bloc in March 2019.'
Read more: EU freezes Brexit talks until Britain produces Irish border solution
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23 March 2019
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