Britain Urges Move to Brexit Phase 2

Britain Urges Move to Brexit Phase 2

BRUSSELS (AP) -- Britain's foreign secretary said Wednesday that Brexit negotiations mustn't be held up by disputes over Irish borders and that the issue should be tackled in phase two of departure talks.

Boris Johnson said that "the best way to sort it out is to get onto the second phase of the negotiations, where all these difficult issues can be properly teased out, thrashed out, and solved."

Britain and the EU came close Monday to agreeing on key divorce terms, including how to maintain an open Irish border after the U.K. — including Northern Ireland — leaves the EU.

But the agreement was scuttled at the last minute when the Democratic Unionist Party — which props up Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government — warned it wouldn't support a deal it saw as undermining Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom.

Johnson said that a solution to the issue "can only be discovered in the context of discussions on the end state of the U.K.'s relations with the rest of the EU."

"We are going to take back control of our borders, of our laws and of U.K. cash contributions and that's the way forward, and we will come up with a solution," he added.

May was expected to hold talks with top EU officials later this week.

Britain and the EU have only days to clinch a deal on borders, Britain's financial settlement with its EU partners and the rights of citizens hit by Brexit before a Dec. 14-15 EU summit that will decide whether Brexit talks can move on to future relations and trade.

The lack of progress so far has raised concerns that Britain may not have a deal by the time it officially leaves on March 29, 2019, and heightened fears that May's government could collapse.