United Kingdom and European Union fail to reach Brexit deal after crunch Brussels meeting

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

Negotiators were discussing an agreement that would commit Britain to maintaining "regulatory alignment" between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit.

British prime minister Theresa May is travelling to Brussels on Monday (4 December) to try to reach a deal on Brexit divorce issues despite having failed to clinch an agreement on the Northern Ireland border ahead of the meeting.

Despite intense discussions over the weekend over the border issue, Irish officials said on Sunday night that "there is still a way to go".

Key divisions remain on the issues of the Irish border and the rights of European Union citizens living in the UK. This is possible because both the United Kingdom and Ireland are part of the EU's borderless single market for goods and services as well as the tariff-less customs union.

The pound sterling's key risk today has been U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May's meetings with European Commission President Juncker and Donald Tusk in Brussels, as she presents proposals for the U.K.'s contentious financial settlement with the EU and the complex issue of the Irish border.

David McAllister, a vice-president of the European People's Party - the European Parliament's largest grouping - said it was "difficult to predict" whether EU leaders will sanction the start of second phase Brexit talks this month, also classing the prospects of progress at "50/50". "But on a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation".

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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.

Calling May as a tough negotiator in his two-minute briefing, Juncker said he is confident that sufficient progress could be reached before the European Union summit slated for December 15. "I'm very confident that we will reach agreement in the course of this week".

The EU and the United Kingdom are nearing agreement on some divorce terms, including the size of the bill that Britain must pay as it leaves and the rights of citizens affected by Brexit. But then Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May's minority government, announced it wouldn't support any deal that made special rules for Northern Ireland.

"We can not align the regulation of one part of the United Kingdom with the European Union", he said. But the border issue has proved more intractable.

Varadkar said he was "surprised and disappointed that the British government now appears not to be in a position to conclude what was agreed earlier today".

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