Monday, 21 October, 2019

Brexit: 'Mood music' positive for talks, Nicky Morgan says

Has Boris Johnson conceded to a border in the Irish Sea? Speculations rife as PM and Taoiseach say they have a 'pathway' to a deal Brexit talks enter crucial 'tunnel' phase, but gaps on substance remain
Patty Aguilar | 13 October, 2019, 02:53

THERE IS a sense of cautious optimism in the air today after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that yesterday's meeting with Boris Johnson has led to "a pathway to a possible deal".

The discussions focused heavily on the issues of the customs arrangements and the proposed "consent" mechanism for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Since voting to leave the EU back in 2016, Britain has struggled to come up with a way to exit that is acceptable to both their people and the union. European Union officials said the proposal is extremely complicated and needs work before it could be considered to be a solution, but didn't rule out it becoming the eventual compromise.

Following the conclusion of his crucial Brexit meeting between the UK Brexit Secretary Barclay, the European Union (EU) Chief Brexit Negotiator Barnier came out on the wires, saying that "I had a constructive meeting with Barclay; keep calm".

The Taoiseach said a deal was possible after more than two hours of talks but warned that "there's many a slip between cup and lip".

In this situation, goods crossing between Northern Ireland and England, Wales or Scotland would require customs and regulatory checks, something which is bound to cause huge upset for the Unionist Party.

"There is a joint feeling that there is a way forward, that we can see a pathway to a deal", he said.

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The key sticking point in the Brexit negotiations is how to handle trade and customs on the border between European Union member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland. "There's work to be done".

If a deal did emerge, Mr Johnson would also need the backing of the DUP and Eurosceptic Tories to have any chance of getting it through without opposition support.

Any agreement would have to be backed by Parliament in London, where Johnson is reliant on the DUP. "If there is a will, there is a way" she said.

While negotiations are heading into a new intensive phase, they aren't headed into the full "tunnel", the formal Brussels process by which the actual legal text of an agreement is thrashed out in secret.

Mr Burleigh's initial claim that Barnier has been given the "green light" for such talks now seems uncertain, however, with a number of other reporters inflicting an abundance of mixed metaphors on observers by suggesting that the governments of the EU27 will not enter a "tunnel" with the British without being able to see a "landing zone" at the end of it.

The European Commission will update the EU's national envoys Sunday, with the aim of having something concrete for EU affairs ministers to look at when they meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to prepare for the summit.

Meanwhile, European Council president Donald Tusk handed the PM a last-minute reprieve to secure an agreement, but warned the United Kingdom still has not presented a "workable, realistic proposal". The next week will see whether those noises turn into an agreement on paper.

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