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LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May urged EU leaders to compromise and back her Brexit blueprint Wednesday, ahead of a key meeting of the bloc's leaders in Salzburg, Austria.
Writing in German newspaper Die Welt, May said Britain "has evolved its position" and argued that "the EU will need to do the same."
With six months to go until Britain leaves the EU in March, major differences remain between the two sides. But May said a divorce deal is within grasp if both sides show "good will and determination."
May argues that the U.K. and the EU face a choice between her proposal — which would keep Britain aligned to the EU rulebook in return for seamless trade in goods — and an economically disruptive Brexit in which Britain crashes out of the bloc without a deal.
But the EU has reservations about the plan, and the two sides remain divided over how to ensure there is no hard border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.
The British government says the EU's fallback plan would effectively keep Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU after the rest of the U.K. leaves — creating a border down the Irish Sea.
"Neither side can demand the unacceptable of the other, such as an external customs border between different parts of the United Kingdom," May wrote in Die Weit.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said Tuesday that the EU is ready to adapt its proposal on the Irish border in order to "de-dramatize" the issue.
He said the EU is not proposing "a border, neither on land or at sea.
"No. It is a set of technical controls and checks, a lot of which, most, can be put in place and carried out in places other than physically in Northern Ireland," Barnier said.
Pro-Brexit members of May's Conservative Party also oppose her deal, saying it would keep Britain tethered to the bloc, with no say over its rules and unable to strike new trade deals around the world.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis — who quit the government in July over opposition to May's plan — predicted Wednesday that the EU would press Britain to make more concessions.
"All these things will come back and we'll see more and more pressure, and (May) will have a deal she won't be able to bring back to the House of Commons because it'll be lumbered with loads of other EU demands, so she's going to have to have something else," Davis told the BBC.
Jill Lawless and Gregory Katz in London and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this story.