The chairman of European Union leaders said on Monday he was encouraged by the progress of talks on avoiding a physical border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after Britain leaves the EU, which brought closer the prospect of starting trade talks with Britain. Ciara Lee reports
A "Brexit breakthrough"... A "critical moment"... Some bold statement's have been made about this lunch. Although the British PM and European Comission President Jean-Claude Juncker were giving little away Progress would help Britain avoid further costly delays in giving businesses assurances of a smooth Brexit May wants the EU to open the second phase of negotiations, focusing on a trade agreement. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PETER DIXON, GLOBAL ECONOMIST, COMMERZBANK, SAYING: "The sooner we start talking about these things the better. Certainly from a governmental perspective and perhaps also I guess from a market perspective which we'd like to see a little bit more clarity on this issue going forward." London has broadly agreed to many of the EU's "divorce" terms Including paying out around 50 billion euros. But the issue of expatriate citizens and the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain, and the Republic of Ireland have been fraught... although even that now appears to nearing a breakthrough. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PETER DIXON, GLOBAL ECONOMIST, COMMERZBANK, SAYING: "I would guess that the way to resolve this is that Northern Ireland remains in the Customs Union in all but name having some kind of pretense, I guess is the only way forward, because clearly the EU will not accept the hard border. I want to be fair the UK government doesn't want to implement what either." Investors seem pleased by the changing tone out of Brussels too. Sterling jumped and UK government bond futures fell on Monday The pound climbing 0.8 percent on the day to a one-month high. May's also meeting with EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. And with events moving fast The man who will chair a crunch summit next week - European Council President Donald Tusk - has cancelled an overseas trip Promptly scheduling his own meeting with May for later on Monday.