Divorce bill focus of Brexit talks on Monday

"As we enter negotiations next week we will do so in a spirit of honest cooperation taking a pragmatic approach to trying to find a solution that works both for the United Kingdom and for the European Union 27", Hammond told reporters before a meeting of the 28 EU finance ministers in Luxembourg.

On his talks in London with Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday, he said they had offered an "Irish solution to an English problem" as giving Northern Ireland special European Union status after Brexit to keep an open border on the island.

The Brexit negotiator asked London not to "waste time" and explained that it will take "several months to draw out the conditions of an orderly withdrawal, with hard and sensitive points of discussion".

The announcement by Andrea Leadsom suggests that Prime Minister Theresa May and the Northern Ireland-based Democratic Unionist Party have struck an agreement or are close to one.

"We remain fully committed to making the institutions work", she said.

European Union leaders, who will meet May at a summit next Thursday, have been irritated by her repeated threats to walk out with "no deal" - even if most see that as a campaigning bluff given the chaos it would cause.

On Brexit, Mrs Foster said the DUP wanted to see "a sensible Brexit and one that works for everybody".

Earlier, Andrea Leadsom, leader of the lower house of parliament, said the government had agreed with Queen Elizabeth, who reads out the new government programme, that the "state opening of parliament will take place on 21 June 2017".

Talks to restore confidence took a back seat in recent days as the political focus largely shifted to London and the DUP's deal to prop up the Conservatives at Westminster.

Colum Eastwood, leader of the SDLP, Northern Ireland's second-largest Irish nationalist party, said his party had a "positive" meeting with the prime minister over her efforts to come up with a deal with the DUP.

"We know each other and we understand each other", she said.

Barnier's interview will heap yet more pressure on May, who called a snap general election to give her a stronger hand at the Brexit negotiating table.

The Conservative source said the talks to leave the European Union would not be delayed, removing the question mark over the negotiations being derailed by May's lack of a parliamentary majority lost in an election she did not need to call.

"We will go into speak with Sinn Féin again on Monday morning because devolution works and works for everybody in Northern Ireland", she said emphatically. As the European Union has itself said, "nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed".

The Conservatives have 317 MPs while the DUP have 10.

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