European Union presses Britain to 'face up to hard facts' on Brexit

Ford calls for Brexit clarity to help it make UK investment decision- Report

In strident comments on the matter, Mr Tusk said: "If in London someone assumes that the negotiations will deal with other issues first, before moving to the Irish issue, my response would be: Ireland first".

He was in Dublin meeting the Taoiseach ahead of a crucial European Union summit in Brussels on March 22.

Britain has so far failed to bring forward "specific and realistic" alternative proposals to keep the Irish border open without activating the EU's "backstop" option, he said.

Although the United Kingdom wants a deal, the government says it is preparing for any outcome including the chance that it could crash out of the bloc without an agreement.

"I object in the strongest possible terms to people who have limited experience of the Troubles in Northern Ireland throwing threats of violence around as some kind of bargaining chip in this negotiating process", said Mrs Foster - a thinly veiled rebuke to former prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major, who have raised the prospect of civil war in Ulster as a pretext for reversing or watering down Brexit.

The EU issued draft guidelines for the negotiations on the future relationship earlier in the week - to be agreed by the 27 heads of state and government.

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Crucially, the bloc said Britain would be treated like any other third country in respect of financial services - which London had pressed to be included in a future free-trade deal.

"Red tape" would also impact a number of other sectors, including agriculture, agri-food, consumer goods, chemicals and plastics, and financial services, due to the necessity to install new infrastructure to continue to serve clients within the European Union, the Oliver Wyman and Clifford Change report stated.

But, asked the same question on the BBC Andrew Marr's programme, Philip Hammond declined to say he believed that Brexit was in the interests of the British people.

"In the Free Trade Agreement, we can offer trade in goods", but "services are about common rules, common supervision, and common enforcement", he said. I fully respect the chancellor's competence in defining what's in the UK's interest.

"What we can agree, I think our position as Parliament is a reasonable one and gives an indication that we want to have, finally, an agreement that avoids the most hard damage that can be created".

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