UK, EU close to Brexit breakthrough PROGRESS ON DEAL

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Progress-on-dealBrussels: Theresa May is set to meet key EU figures for talks on Brexit which could determine whether the UK is able to move on to negotiations about trade, reports BBC

The BBC understands the two sides have now reached broad agreement over the UK “divorce bill” and citizens’ rights.

But Irish ministers said there was no breakthrough on the outstanding issue of the border with Northern Ireland.

No 10 said “plenty of discussions” lay ahead as it seeks EU leaders’ backing to start trade talks in ten days time. As the Brexit process enters a crunch phase, the prime minister will meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council.

Mr Tusk represents the leaders of the other 27 EU members, who all need to agree for there to be a move to the next phase of talks.

The UK voted for Brexit last year and is due to leave in March 2019, but negotiations have been deadlocked over three so-called separation issues.

The EU says it will only recommend the start of talks about future trade arrangements when it deems “sufficient progress” has been made on three issues – the status of expat citizens, the “divorce” bill and the Northern Ireland border.

The UK has been set a deadline of this week to come forward with an improved offer on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal.

Downing Street has described the meeting as an “important staging post” on the route to the “crucial” summit with the other 27 leaders on 14 December when it hopes to get the green light for the start of trade talks .

On the “divorce bill”, the UK is understood to have recently increased its offer, which could be worth up to 50bn euros (£44bn).

On the issue of EU citizens’ rights, it has been reported that the UK has agreed that the three million citizens from other EU states who want to stay in the UK will not have to pay to apply for settled status.

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