British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, left, prepares to take his seat next to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson as they attend a meeting of the NATO-Georgia Council at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Dec 6, 2017. (VIRGINIA MAYO / AP)
BRUSSELS — Britain's foreign secretary said Wednesday that Brexit negotiations must not be held up by disputes over Irish borders and that the issue should be tackled in phase two of departure talks.
We are going to take back control of our borders, of our laws and of UK cash contributions and that's the way forward, and we will come up with a solution.
Boris Johnson, Foreign Secretary, Britain
Boris Johnson said that "the best way to sort it out is to get onto the second phase of the negotiations, where all these difficult issues can be properly teased out, thrashed out, and solved."
Britain and the EU came close Monday to agreeing on key divorce terms, including how to maintain an open Irish border after the UK — including Northern Ireland — leaves the EU.
But the agreement was scuttled at the last minute when the Democratic Unionist Party — which props up Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government — warned it wouldn't support a deal it saw as undermining Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom.
Johnson said that a solution to the issue "can only be discovered in the context of discussions on the end state of the UK's relations with the rest of the EU."
"We are going to take back control of our borders, of our laws and of UK cash contributions and that's the way forward, and we will come up with a solution," he added.
May was expected to hold talks with top EU officials later this week.
British Prime Minister Theresa May (left) and European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker give a press conference as they meet for Brexit negotiations on Dec 4, 2017 at the European Commission in Brussels. (JOHN THYS / AFP)
Britain and the EU have only days to clinch a deal on borders, Britain's financial settlement with its EU partners and the rights of citizens hit by Brexit before a Dec 14-15 EU summit that will decide whether Brexit talks can move on to future relations and trade.
The lack of progress so far has raised concerns that Britain may not have a deal by the time it officially leaves on March 29, 2019, and heightened fears that May's government could collapse.