Wednesday, 16 October, 2019

EU, Britain to intensify talks on a Brexit deal

Boris Johnson Boris Johnson
Ginger Lawrence | 12 October, 2019, 09:26

BREXIT negotiations will now enter the "tunnel" phase of intensive and secretive talks in a major boost for Boris Johnson's prospects of brokering a fresh deal.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said on Friday morning that "the United Kingdom has still not come forward with a workable, realistic proposal" but tempered that by saying that "even the slight chance (that a deal can be struck) must be used".

Downing Street is understood to have shared details of the proposed compromise privately with European Union negotiators, which paved the way for detailed formal talks to begin ahead of next week's meeting of European Union leaders.

Mrs. Foster issued the statement a few hours after Boris Johnson refused to rule out leaving Northern Ireland in the E.U.'s customs union while the rest of the United Kingdom would leave it.

Michel Barnier, the European Commission's Chief Negotiator, had a constructive meeting this morning with Steve Barclay, the UK Secretary of State for Exiting the EU.

In a statement on Friday, Arlene Foster said that, while negotiations are a matter for the UK Government, the DUP will "exercise our considerable influence" to "stand up for Northern Ireland" and will only ever support arrangements that are in province's long-term economic and constitutional interests.

"Brexit is like climbing a mountain".

"We need vigilance, determination and patience", Barnier told reporters on his way to debrief European Union ambassadors and Parliament's Brexit group.

Earlier this week, several senior European Union figures played down the chances of Brexit happening with a deal agreed to by both sides.

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Sterling rose sharply on global money markets in the wake of the talks, on which Cabinet received a briefing on Friday morning.

The Prime Minister cautioned it was not a "done deal" and there was still "a way to go" if they were to get an agreement which would enable Britain to leave on October 31, as he has promised.

The pound was up around 2.2 cents, or 1.9%, against the U.S. dollar, to 1.2660.

Tusk said that he had been prepared to announce publicly on Friday that there were "no more chances" for a Brexit deal that could be agreed at the upcoming meeting of European leaders.

Johnson warned that despite recent developments, an agreement was not a done deal.

After a meeting in northwest England on Thursday Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar said they had "agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal".

He said the United Kingdom had yet to put forward an "operational, legally binding solution" to replace the Northern Ireland backstop - meant to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic. If it is time for the sake of time?

Mr Barclay and Mr Barnier were dispatched after the two prime ministers held face-to-face discussions in the Wirral yesterday, prompting the leaders to "see a pathway" to a possible agreement.

Barnier's team has been in "technical talks" with British officials for some time, but these were not making enough progress towards a treaty text that could forestall a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit in three weeks.