News Worms
News Worms

UK's Hammond says economy should be priority in Brexit talks

UK's Hammond says economy should be priority in Brexit talks

Brexit talks in Brussels on Monday will focus on the status of expats, the UK's "divorce bill" and the Northern Ireland border, rather than on future trade relations with the European Union, it has been confirmed.

"There is very little time left".

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday condemned what she called a "grubby deal" with the DUP, warning that it could undermine the peace process.

An EU official close to the matter said the "softer Brexit" talk could be "productive" and help progress in the first months, where the British attitude to discussing the financial settlement "will be the first serious test of the negotiations". "That is why we are pushing ahead with negotiations on Monday".

The republican party's leader at Stormont, Michelle O'Neill, predicted the confidence and supply deal between the Tories and the DUP would "end in tears".

The prospect of a deal between the two parties has caused disquiet, with the DUP's anti-abortion and gay rights stance in the crosshairs.

Britain's ruling Conservatives and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party have yet to agree a deal to support Prime Minister Theresa May's government, Sky News reported on Thursday, citing sources. The queen's speech, which lays out the government's program, has been delayed until Wednesday.

The new president of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said the DUP has a position of "opportunity and responsibility" as it continues discussions on an agreement to support the Conservatives' minority government. The reason? After Brexit, Northern Ireland will form the U.K.'s only land frontier with the European Union, and its economy will probably suffer most should the nation crash out of the EU without a deal.

On the eve of becoming chancellor, Hammond - then the foreign secretary - told an audience of bankers that "access to the single market is crucially important to your industry", and "we want to work collectively with you" to ensure it's maintained.

With her tally of Conservative MPs slashed to 317 in last week's poll, Mrs May needs the backing of the DUP's 10 members to reach the 320 required for a working majority in the Commons.

"We have all scenarios ready", the official said.

European leaders' biggest concern, however, is that Britain's political chaos is wasting time that could be used to negotiate.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said this week that he was anxious for May to get her house in order. "It's a unity of goal, having voted to leave the European Union, that their government gets on with that and makes a success of it".

Developments at Westminster have placed a cloud of uncertainty over scheduled talks to restore powersharing at Stormont.


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