EU leaders reach deal on migration after overnight talks

Focus will turn to Brexit when the two-day summit resumes

EU leaders reach deal on migration after overnight talks

Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel. Picture by: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP/Press Association Images

EU leaders have reached a deal on migration, after being locked in talks overnight on the issue.

The deal reached includes proposals for centres for "rapid and secure processing" of migrants who arrive over the Mediterranean, and calls on member states to "counter movements" of migrants between member states.

It also pledges to intensify efforts to stop people smugglers operating out of Libya.

Migration dominated the first day of the two-day summit, amid demands from Italy for more action and internal political turmoil in Germany over the issue.

Officials said Italy - which has seen huge numbers of migrants arrive on its shores - threatened to refuse to agree a common position at the European Council meeting unless it was satisfied with the deal on migration.

European Council President Donald Tusk admitted talks over the issue had become "incredibly heated".

However, in the early hours of the morning he tweeted to confirm an agreement had been reached.

The agreement proposes dedicated centres "to distinguish between irregular migrants, who will be returned, and those in need of international protection, for whom the principle of solidarity would apply".

The centres are to be set up in member states "only on a voluntary basis", the deal stresses.

It also calls for further cooperation with Africa, while encouraging 'all necessary action' to limit the movement of migrants between EU member states.

The agreement notes: "Leaders agreed that [migration] is a challenge not only for a single member state, but for Europe as a whole."

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Minister for European Affairs Helen McEntee - who is in Brussels with the Taoiseach - explained: "It was agreed to increase our spending. We've agreed to support member states that are most impacted."

Brexit

On the second day of the summit today, EU leaders will focus on the "state of play" of Brexit negotiations.

European Council members will be briefed on the current status of talks by the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday said Ireland is not preparing for any land border in the unlikely event of a no deal Brexit.

He said more progress has to be made to ensure a deal, explaining: "The deadline for a withdrawal agreement has always been October.

"However, we did expect that we would make more progress - or any progress - at this summit in June, like there was in March and December. There hasn't been."

He added: "If we have a no deal Brexit - which is unlikely, but possible - then the UK will essentially crash out of the customs union and single market [...] That would require us to make preparations in our ports and airports for that kind of scenario."