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(Reuters) - Britain is close to a deal over the Northern Ireland border, after British officials made proposals this week to avoid a "hard border" in Ireland, according to Thursday's edition of The Times newspaper.

The EU has named the border as one of three issues on which "sufficient progress" must be made in order to allow progress to talks on a future trade agreement with Britain, crucial for British businesses.

EU leaders are preparing to offer a two-year Brexit transition deal as early as January after negotiators were close to a deal over the border, The Times said citing EU sources.

The EU will also pledge to speed up approval for a transition deal that maintains Britain's present relationship with the EU at a summit in Brussels next month, paper added.

Britain and the EU have reached agreement on a Brexit divorce bill which is likely to finally total around 50 billion euros, British newspapers reported on Tuesday, potentially heralding a breakthrough in the negotiations.

(Reporting by Abinaya Vijayaraghavan in BengaluruEditing by Sandra Maler)

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