22:00 GMT +323 May 2018
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    Union Flags and European Union flags fly near the Elizabeth Tower, housing the Big Ben bell, during the anti-Brexit 'People's March for Europe', in Parliament Square in central London, Britain September 9, 2017

    UK Denies Asking EU to 'Park' Irish Border Issue in Favor of Brexit Trade Talks

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    UK officials have denied a report that they asked Brussels to "park" the thorny Irish border issue in order to allow trade talks to start; on Tuesday it was reported that London had agreed to pay a larger Brexit divorce bill of up to €50 billion ($59 billion) in an effort to kick start stalled negotiations.

    On Wednesday, the BBC reported that Brexit ministers had suggested a plan to meet Brussels' demand for "sufficient progress" on the Irish border issue so that trade talks can begin. The proposal reportedly consisted of a joint "statement of agreed facts" and a special conference in January.

    READ MORE: Ireland to Stand Firm on Brexit Following Fitzgerald's Resignation

    "There was some talk in Whitehall of trying to agree a position which would stress agreement in the first two areas [the divorce bill and citizens' rights] and 'park' the Irish question until early next year," the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg said.

    However, according to The Times, "Sources at the Brexit department said that the report was wrong, suggesting that the idea of a special conference in January related to attempts to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland."

    On Tuesday, diplomats familiar with the Brexit negotiations told the Financial Times that the UK had bowed to the EU's demands on the divorce settlement, agreeing to total liabilities worth €100 billion ($118 billion). However, net payments paid out over several decades could fall to less than half that sum.

    READ MORE: British Pound Peaks As UK Allegedly Agrees to EU Divorce Demands

    There is increasing pressure for a breakthrough in Brexit talks prior to an EU summit in mid-December, where heads of state and the EU leaders will discuss whether they are ready to open talks on a future trade deal. Brussels is only willing to start negotiations on trade after it has seen "sufficient progress" in three areas: the Irish border issue, the rights of EU citizens in the UK, and the divorce bill. 

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    Brexit 'divorce bill', Brexit negotiations, trade agreements, Brexit, trade, Republic of Ireland, EU, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Ireland
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