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SALZBURG, Austria, September 20, 2018 (Reuters) - EU leaders lined up on Thursday to tell Theresa May she needs to give guarantees on the Irish border before they will grant her the Brexit deal the prime minister wants to avoid Britain crashing out of the bloc.

Arriving for a second day of summitry in Austria, May’s European Union peers rammed home their message on her plea for them to ease up on a “backstop” plan dealing with the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland.

The backstop would keep Northern Ireland under EU economic oversight if London and Brussels cannot agree a trade pact to keep UK-EU borders open, an idea that May and a small party in the province that props up her minority government oppose.

“We have very clear principles regarding the integrity of the single market and regarding precisely the Irish border,” French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters at the summit in Salzburg. “We need a UK proposal precisely preserving this backstop in the framework of a withdrawal agreement.”

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had his own early morning meeting with May, after she had asked the summit over dinner the previous night not to ask her effectively to divide the United Kingdom. But Varadkar warned that Dublin was gearing up for the talks to collapse without a deal if London refuses to budge.

“We’re ready for that eventuality, should it occur. But I think we need to double our efforts over the next couple of weeks to make sure that we have a deal,” he said.

Leaders had listened politely to May for a few minutes around the summit dinner table, laid in the Salzburg theater used in the finale of the “The Sound of Music” film. EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker said: “It was interesting, it was polite, it was not aggressive.

After dining on Wiener Schnitzel and wrangling for four hours over Europe’s migrant problem, May was given the floor and tried to win over her 27 peers by asking them what they would do if they were asked to agree a “legal separation” of their countries.

She maintains that the backstop would divide Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of customs after Brexit day in March.

Maintaining a united front that refuses to let May bypass the talks run by EU negotiator Michel Barnier, the 27 leaders did not respond to her. They will discuss the issue among themselves over lunch on Thursday, setting what Barnier hopes can be a path to a final deal in two months.

“I believe that I have put forward serious and workable proposals,” May told the summit, according to a senior British government source. “We will of course not agree on every detail, but I hope that you will respond in kind.

“The onus is now on all of us to get this deal done.”

For now, however, May faces criticism of her “soft Brexit” approach at her Conservative Party conference in 10 days and there as little sign of either side giving way.

One of her party allies called her “Chequers” proposal for a close trade relationship with the EU that would ease the problem of the Irish border “delusional” and “dead as a dodo”.

“At this stage, it’s a standstill. There is no progress,” Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite told Reuters.

A senior EU diplomat said May seemed to be edging towards compromise, offering new proposals on how to avoid differing economic regulations disrupting trade and speaking of a “middle way”.

With barely six months until Britain leaves the EU, there is pressure on both sides as any failure to strike a deal to tie up legal loose ends brings the risk of serious disruption. “You can hear very clearly the clock ticking in the room,” said the diplomat. “And that’s starting to have a psychological effect.”

EU officials again said Britain had to move its own position over how to avoid erecting border posts on the Irish border, which will become Britain’s only land frontier with the EU, as well as on future economic co-operation after Brexit day.

A government source suggested Britain would come up with other proposals on Northern Ireland “in due course”, but May has so far been reluctant to move from her Chequers plan, hashed out at her official country home in July.

CAIRO, Sept 20 , 2018(MENA) - The EU-Arab summit will be held in Egypt to review several Arab-European cooperation issues, not just immigration-related issues, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

Ahmed Abu Zeid said the venue of the summit has been set in advance in line with Resolutions no 147 and 148 of the Arab League Council and Resolution 691 of the 2017 Arab summit which was held in Jordan's Dead Sea.

Abu Zeid made the remarks in response to questions by diplomatic editors about recent statements by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Maria Mogherini and European Council President Donald Tusk in this regard.

BRUSSELS, September 20, 2018 (News Wires) - Europe’s justice chief gave US social media giant Facebook until the end of the year to comply with EU consumer rules or face sanctions.

European Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova also said on Thursday that Airbnb had made the necessary changes after being told to do so three months ago, confirming a Reuters story on Wednesday.

“My patience has reached its limit. While Facebook assured me to finally adapt any remaining misleading terms of services by December, this has been ongoing for too long,” Jourova said in a statement.

“It is now time for action and no more promises. If the changes are not fully implemented by the end of the year, I call on consumer authorities to act swiftly and sanction the company,” she said.

Jourova had in February told the company and other social media platforms to toe the line.

 

BRUSSELS, Sept 18, 2018 (News Wires) - European Union regulators have opened an in-depth investigation into whether automakers BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen colluded to limit the development and roll-out of car emission control systems.

The EU Commission said on Tuesday that it had received information that BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen, and VW units Audi and Porsche held meetings to discuss clean technologies aimed at limiting car exhaust emissions.

The probe focuses on whether the automakers agreed not to compete against each other in developing and introducing technology to restrict pollution from gasoline and diesel passenger cars.

"If proven, this collusion may have denied consumers the opportunity to buy less polluting cars, despite the technology being available to the manufacturers," said EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

The Commission said its probe was focused on diesel emission control systems involving the injection of urea solution into exhaust to remove harmful nitrogen oxides. The probe follows a report in Der Spiegel magazine last year that the automakers had agreed to limit the size of the tanks holding the urea solution.

The case is another source of diesel trouble for German automakers in the wake of Volkswagen's emissions scandal.

The Commission said, however, there was no evidence the companies had colluded to develop so-called defeat devices - computer software that illegally turns off emissions controls. Volkswagen in 2015 admitted using such devices and has set aside 27.4 billion euros ($32 billion) for fines, settlements, recalls and buybacks.

Former CEO Martin Winterkorn was criminally charged by US authorities but cannot be extradited; Audi division head Rupert Stadler has been jailed while prosecutors investigate possible wrongdoing.

CAIRO, Sept 18, 2018 (MENA) - Egyptian Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Ezzedin Abu Steit said Tuesday the European Union is Egypt's first partner in terms of exports and imports.

Trade exchange between the two sides hit more than 26 billion dollars last year while the volume of the European investments in Egypt amounted to 15 million, he said.

The minister's statements came in a speech read out by Mona Mehrez, deputy minister of agriculture for animal wealth, at a workshop to review the requirements of EU countries to import Egyptian crops in cooperation with the European Commission.

Minister Abu Steit said the ministry is interested in exporting safe and healthy agricultural products to the European Union.

 

BRUSSELS, Sept 18, 2018 (News Wires) - A top European Union official says Britain and the EU could yet fail to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce, just six months before the UK is due to leave the bloc.

EU Council President Donald Tusk wrote Tuesday that "unfortunately, a no deal scenario is still quite possible. But if we all act responsibly, we can avoid a catastrophe."

His warning came in an invitation letter to EU leaders for a summit in Salzburg, Austria, starting Wednesday evening.

Tusk, who will chair the meeting, wants the 27 leaders - minus Prime Minister Theresa May - to reach agreement on the terms of a text outlining their future relations with Britain after it leaves next March.

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