Thursday, 17 October, 2019

Brexit talks enter crucial 'tunnel' phase, but gaps on substance remain

Boris Johnson Boris Johnson
Russell Knight | 12 October, 2019, 05:52

The tepid positivity came after Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar said they could "see a pathway" to a possible agreement following face-to-face discussions in the Wirral.

Mrs Foster's statement comes after her party gave their backing to the Prime Minister's Brexit proposals last week, which would effectively see a border erected down the Irish Sea and keep Northern Ireland in the Single Market.

Tusk said "there is no guarantee of success and the time is practically up" but insisted both sides should use every opportunity available ahead of Britain's scheduled October 31 departure date. Barnier's meeting with ambassadors was still going on, but officials with knowledge of the talks said that the 27 other European Union countries had responded positively.

"The UK has still not come forward with a workable, realistic proposal", said European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday, though he added that he had received "promising signals" from Varadkar.

On his way out, Mr Barnier told reporters they had held a "constructive meeting" and that he was going to meet with ambassadors of the EU27 and the European Parliament's Brexit steering group before planning the next move.

"I have received promising signals from [Varadkar] that a deal is still possible", he noted.

He had earlier cautioned that Brexit was "like climbing a mountain", saying that both sides needed "vigilance, determination, and patience".

A statement from the UK Government also described it as a "constructive meeting".

Of course, nothing has been confirmed yet- and all optimism should be cautious, because if Mr Johnson did indeed make such a huge concession, it's likely that Mr Varadkar also had to do so.

The EU said later that the two sides would "intensify discussions over the coming days" before an assessment on the Brexit talks would be made on Monday.

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DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party has consistently opposed the contentious border backstop proposals.

A short while later, Mr Barnier hailed the "constructive" talks with Mr Barclay.

Briefings by anonymous Downing Street sources had accused Mr Varadkar of backtracking on previous commitments to try to find a deal, and of refusing to negotiate.

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".

Mrs. Foster went on to say that anything concerning Northern Ireland and Brexit could only be considered as credible if it commands cross community support from both unionists and nationalists.

The UK is due to leave the European Union in 20 days.

Whatever the outcome of the "tunnel" talks and next week's summit, United Kingdom lawmakers will be recalled on October 19, a Saturday, for an emergency parliamentary session.

Speaking during a school visit on Friday, Mr Johnson was adamant he would not accept any arrangement which damaged the ability of "the whole of the United Kingdom" to take full advantage of Brexit, including any new trade deals struck with countries around the world.

Should any new deal be reached between the European Union and United Kingdom, it will still have to be approved by MPs in Parliament.

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