'Ireland first': May warned on Brexit talks

By Alan McGuinness, Political Reporter
A top EU figure has told Britain there must be an "Ireland first" approach to the Brexit talks, dismissing suggestions the contentious issue can be put off until later in the negotiations.
European Council president Donald Tusk said progress could be put in jeopardy if there was any "backsliding" by the UK on the deal agreed between London and Brussels in December.Prime Minister Theresa May has angrily dismissed EU proposals which would mean Northern Ireland effectively remaining in the bloc's customs union.Mr Tusk claimed Britain had so far failed to come up with "specific and realistic" alternative proposals to keep the Irish border open without reverting to the EU's "backstop" option which has provoked such anger.
'Ireland first': May warned on Brexit talks

Sky takes a look at the Irish border issue
Brexit Secretary David Davis has accused the European Commission of "putting the cart before the horse" on Ireland by laying out in depth proposals for regulatory alignment on both sides of the border.He has also maintained that the thorny issue can best be handled as part of future talks on Britain's trading relationship with the EU.But speaking after talks with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Mr Tusk said: "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."While we must respect this position, we also expect the UK to propose a specific and realistic solution to avoid a hard border.
'Ireland first': May warned on Brexit talks

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"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 assumes that the negotiations can deal with other issues first before the Irish issue, my response would be: Ireland first."He warned: "We have to be clear that any backsliding on the commitments made so far would create a risk to further progress in Brexit negotiations. This applies also to the question of avoiding a hard border."Mr Tusk also dismissed the Chancellor's hopes for a free trade deal covering the financial sector, warning any agreement will not offer the same access for services as for goods.
'Ireland first': May warned on Brexit talks

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In a speech on Wednesday, Philip Hammond had warned the City of London's European rivals that they would not automatically benefit from a deal that excludes financial services.But Mr Tusk said: "In the FTA we can offer trade in goods with the aim of covering all sectors, subject to zero tariffs and no quantitative restrictions."But services are not about tariffs. Services are about common rules, common supervision and common enforcement, to ensure a level playing field, to ensure the integrity of the single market and ultimately also to ensure financial stability.
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"This is why we cannot offer the same in services as we can offer in goods. It's also why FTAs don't have detailed rules for financial services."We should all be clear that, also when it comes to financial services, life will be different after Brexit."
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