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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

UK 'very close' to EU divorce bill agreement

Irish EU commissioner says Britain and the bloc are nearing figure to be paid for leaving

epa06357374 European Commissioner for agriculture and rural development, Irish, Phil Hogan speaks at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, 29 November 2017 on the future of Common agriculture Policy (CAP) and allow Member States greater responsibilities to choose how and where to invest their CAP funding.  EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET
epa06357374 European Commissioner for agriculture and rural development, Irish, Phil Hogan speaks at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, 29 November 2017 on the future of Common agriculture Policy (CAP) and allow Member States greater responsibilities to choose how and where to invest their CAP funding. EPA/OLIVIER HOSLET

Britain has made proposals on its Brexit divorce bill that come "very close" to meeting the EU's terms and will "hopefully" meet its requirements on the Irish border, Ireland's EU commissioner said Wednesday.

"I would welcome very much the fact that the United Kingdom has brought forward proposals that go very close towards meeting the requirements of the EU 27 member states ... in order to reach agreement on the first part of the agenda" concerning the financial settlement, said the agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan.

"In the same way as we have seen movement in the last 24 hours in relation to the the financial settlement, I expect that we will see movement [on Ireland] in the next few days as well, and hopefully we will," Mr Hogan added.

His comments came despite the fact that EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Wednesday played down reports that Britain and the bloc have come to an agreement on the UK's divorce bill, saying that the "negotiation is not over".

The Daily Telegraph reported that London and Brussels have now accepted the British will pay between €45 billion (Dh2221.3bn) and €55bn, with the final figure depending "on how each side calculates the output from an agreed methodology".

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The EU has demanded "sufficient progress" on three key divorce issues to approve at a summit on December 14-15, the opening of the second phase of Brexit negotiations on a post-Brexit transition period and a future trade deal.

The three issues are the bill, avoiding a hard border between Ireland and British-ruled Northern Ireland, and preserving the rights of three million European citizens in Britain after Brexit.

"Nobody wants to see a situation arise where we have to again in December declare insufficient progress in order to allow the next phase," Mr Hogan added.

"And I am sure that our friends in the United Kingdom are quite concerned about that and they understand what we have to do."

He rejected suggestions that Britain was agreeing to settle the bill in order to railroad Ireland into accepting inferior conditions on the border, saying the EU 27 states were united on the issue.

"I know it's a small country in the eyes of the United Kingdom, but it's certainly part of the 27 member states of the European Union that are negotiating", he said, adding that there was "unanimous agreement" on the position.