There has been no agreement on the Brexit “divorce deal” in talks in Brussels, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has said.
Juncker said there would be further talks later this week and he was “very confident” of making sufficient progress in time for the December 14 summit of the European Council.
Speaking alongside Theresa May on Monday afternoon, Juncker said the delay was “not a failure” but rather the “start of the very last round”.
“I have to say that she is a tough negotiator, and not an easy one. She’s defending the point of view of Britain with all the energy we know she has. And I’m doing the same on the side of the European Union,” he added.
May said a “lot of progress has been made” but “on a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation”.
The prime minister held the crunch talks in Brussels today in order to hammer out a deal on the Northern Ireland border, citizens’ rights and the UK’s divorce bill.
The EU has refused to progress talks to phase two, negotiations on a future trade relationship, until those three issues are settled.
It had been expected an agreement could have been reached by Monday afternoon.
The status of the Northern Ireland border with the Republic of Ireland has become a major sticking point in the talks.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said this afternoon that he was “surprised and disappointed” a deal could not be reached.
In a televised press conference, he claimed that Ireland had received confirmation earlier in the morning from the British government and the EU negotiating taskforce that the UK had reached a text on the border that met Ireland’s concerns.
According to the Republic of Ireland leader, he had then confirmed Ireland’s agreement to the text with both Juncker and Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council.
“I’m surprised and disappointed that the British government now appears to not to be in a position to conclude what was agreed earlier today,” Varadkar said.
“Ireland wants to proceed to phase 2 [of Brexit negotiations],” he continued.
“It’s very much in our interests to do so. However, we cannot agree to do this unless we have firm guarantees that there will not be a hard border in Ireland under any circumstances.”
It came after it was reported on Monday morning that the UK had agreed that Northern Ireland would maintain “alignment” with the EU’s economy in order to prevent the need for customs checks at the border.
The Irish government has said it would not agree to any deal that resulted in the creation of a a hard border amid fears it could put the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy.
This led to suggestions Northern Ireland would effectively remain a member of the customs union and single market while the rest of the UK left both.
But the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it will not accept any agreement that splits Northern Ireland from the UK.
Party leader Arlene Foster said: “We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the UK.
“Northern Ireland must leave the EU on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom”
The prospect of Northern Ireland remaining an effective member of the customs union and single market caused Nicola Sturgeon and Sadiq Khan to question why Scotland and London could not do the same.