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Brexit: Draft agreement a 'decisive' step forward, says Barnier

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says "decisive" progress has been made in reaching a final agreement on the UK's departure from the bloc.

Mr Barnier said a 585-page draft withdrawal agreement published on Wednesday represented a "crucial step in concluding these negotiations".

He also said provisions were included to avoid a hard border with Ireland.

His comments came after .

While the British decision represents a "crucial step" towards the country's orderly withdrawal from the EU, the leaders of the other 27 EU nations still need to decide whether to approve the deal.

Meanwhile, Mrs May faces a battle to get the completed deal through the UK Parliament, despite winning the backing of her cabinet.

The draft withdrawal agreement covers so-called "divorce" issues as the UK prepares to leave the EU in March 2019. It includes a "financial settlement" from the UK, thought to be about £39bn (€45bn; $50bn).

Speaking at a press briefing in Brussels, Mr Barnier addressed one of the major concerns of the divorce, the Irish "hard border" issue.

He said that to avoid the need for physical checks on goods or infrastructure at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the EU would work with the UK to agree a trade deal. However if talks fail, the so-called "backstop" measure would be used.

Both sides have resolved to ensure the backstop is not necessary by coming up with alternative arrangements.

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