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British PM meets Dutch counterpart in key Brexit week

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – British Prime Minister Theresa May held talks on Tuesday, July 3, with her Dutch counterpart in a crunch week when she is due to thrash out with ministers the shape of trade ties with the EU after Brexit.

There were hugs for May from Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as she stepped out of her car to talk over lunch in his official residence known as the Catshuis.

But both leaders only laughed when asked by waiting reporters if the European Union would support May's reported proposal of a third option for overcoming the difficult issue of what customs arrangements to adopt after Brexit.

May made "the case for an ambitious economic and security partnership with the European Union," a statement from the British government said.

She discussed with Rutte "the importance of ensuring that trade between the Netherlands and the UK remained as frictionless as possible" after Brexit, it added.

May is under pressure from eurosceptics in her Conservative Party to keep her promise of a clean break with the EU, but she is also running out of time to reach a deal with Brussels.

After meeting a number of European leaders last week in London and on the sidelines of an EU summit, she is due to talk next on Thursday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

On Friday, May will gather her warring ministers at her Chequers country retreat, aiming to thrash out their differences on how close economically Britain should remain to the EU, ahead of the release of a formal policy proposal next week.

Less than 9 months before Britain leaves the EU in March 2019, the government has yet to set out exactly what it wants, and progress in the negotiations remains slow.

The cabinet, which has been dogged by public discord on various aspects of Brexit, has been in deadlock over two options for customs arrangements after the March 29, 2019, withdrawal date. 

Environment Secretary Michael Gove last week physically ripped up proposals for possible post-Brexit customs arrangements apparently "livid" that his concerns had been donwplayed, reports said Saturday.

One of the top sticking points is how to avoid border checks between Northern Ireland, and EU member state Ireland. – Rappler.com