EU minister ‘nervous’ time running out for Brexit deal

Britain's newly appointed chief Brexit negotiator Dominic Raab, left, and EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speak to the media ahead of a meeting at the European Commission in Brussels, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (AP)
Updated 20 July 2018
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EU minister ‘nervous’ time running out for Brexit deal

BRUSSELS: European Union ministers met Friday to discuss gaps with Britain in the Brexit negotiations as Germany’s envoy admitted he was nervous time was running out for a deal.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was due to brief the ministers on his talks with his new British counterpart Dominic Raab, after their first meeting on Thursday.
Raab took up the job after a rebellion against Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint, with the discord in London and slow pace of talks worrying many in Europe.
“Time is running out. The clock is ticking. That is why I’m a little bit nervous,” Germany’s European affairs minister Michael Roth said on arrival for the Brussels meeting.
Britain is set to leave the bloc on March 30, but the two sides want to strike an agreement by late October in order to give parliaments enough time to endorse a deal.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, published a document on Thursday urging the remaining 27 member states and businesses to “step up preparations” for all outcomes, including the lack of deal.
It warned of disruptions, including to business supply chains.
Britons voted to leave the 28-nation bloc in June 2016, but negotiations were only launched a year later and have bogged down frequently since then.
Raab said in Brussels on Thursday he looked forward to “intensifying, heating up” the Brexit negotiations.
May’s blueprint would see Britain ask the EU for a free trade area for goods through a “facilitated customs arrangement” alongside a “common rulebook.”
EU ministers welcomed some but not all parts of the blueprint.
They listed as a top concern the lack of progress on the future of the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.
Under its guidelines, the EU stipulates there should be no “hard border,” such as customs checks, in order to preserve the gains of the Irish peace process.
“We have no solution yet” on Ireland, Luxembourg’s minister Jean Asselborn told reporters.
“And if we can’t find a solution, I don’t know how to bring Brexit to the goal,” Asselborn said.
Standing with Raab on Thursday, Barnier said there were only 13 months to finalize a withdrawal agreement.
“It is a matter of urgency to agree on a legally operative backstop for Ireland and northern Ireland. We need an all weather insurance policy,” he said.


Four Indian soldiers killed in Kashmir battle with militants

Updated 5 min 20 sec ago
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Four Indian soldiers killed in Kashmir battle with militants

SRINAGAR, India: At least four soldiers died Monday in a fierce gunfight with rebels in Indian-administered Kashmir just four days after a suicide bomber killed 41 paramilitaries in the troubled territory, officials said.
One soldier and one civilian were also critically wounded in the shootout as troops launched a search operation in Pulwama district where the suicide bomber struck on Thursday.
“Four soldiers were killed during the shootout and another one is injured,” a senior police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.