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Barnier: Brexit deal 'difficult but possible' this week

The EU's chief Brexit negotiaitor Michel Barnier has said that securing a deal at this week's EU summit will be difficult but 'still possible'.

Article originally published by The Guardian. Hargreaves Lansdown is not responsible for its content or accuracy and may not share the author's views. News and research are not personal recommendations to deal. All investments can fall in value so you could get back less than you invest.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiaitor Michel Barnier has said that securing a deal at this week’s EU summit will be difficult but “still possible” after Boris Johnson made fresh concessions on the crucial issue of the Irish border.

Downing Street tabled new proposals on Monday leading EU sources to suggest there was now “cautious optimism” that a deal could be in the making. There remains serious doubt, however, that the withdrawal agreement will be ready for leaders to sign-off by Thursday given the complexity of the issues at the heart of the talks.

Finland’s prime minister, Antti Rinne, whose country holds the rolling EU presidency, had suggested on Monday evening that time had run out for Downing Street and that negotiations would need to continue next week.

Speaking as he arrived to brief EU ministers in Luxembourg, Barnier told reporters: “I will debrief the EU27 ministers as usual – and just to tell them where we are, where we stand today, our teams are working hard and the work just starts now, today.

“This work has been intense all over the weekend and yesterday, because even if the agreement will be difficult, more and more difficult to be frank, it is still possible this week – reaching an agreement is still possible, obviously any agreement must work for everyone, the whole of the UK and the whole of the EU. Let me add that it is also high time to turn good intentions into a legal text.”

A press conference with Barnier was cancelled on Tuesday morning in a sign that the negotiations remain highly fluid.

France’s EU minister, Amelie de Montchalin, raised the prospect of a Brexit extension beyond 31 October as she arrived in Luxembourg.

She said: “Time alone is not a solution. However, if a significant political change takes place in the UK then that could potentially justify a discussion on an extension if we were asked for it.

“A significant political change is the prospect of an election, a referendum, something that changes the political dynamic so that the triangle between the government, parliament and the British people could align with each other a bit more. We believe that time alone will not solve the complexity of what is at stake.”

The thorny issue of how to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland continues to dog the Brexit negotiations. The UK has accepted that Northern Ireland will remain in the EU’s single market for goods although it is seeking to find a way to time-limit the arrangement through a consent mechanism for Stormont.

On the problem of a customs border, the EU has rejected the UK’s proposal of a dual system at Northern Ireland’s ports and airport that would involve tracking the destination of all goods entering from Great Britain and applying differential treatment depending on their final destination.

Barnier has pushed the UK to accept a model closer to a Northern Ireland-only backstop. Northern Ireland would not be part of the EU’s customs territory legally but the bloc’s full customs code would be enforced in the Irish Sea, a move that risks provoking the Democratic Unionist party.

EU sources said the British government appeared to be moving towards the Brussels model. Talks between UK and European commission officials went late into the night on Monday and were renewed on Tuesday morning.

“I’m not quite sure if a deal is close but we are trying to do our utmost best to find such a good deal because a hard Brexit would be a disaster not just for the UK but also for the EU27,” added Germany’s EU affairs minister, Michael Roth.

A UK government spokesman said: “As part of the talks process, there is, of course, back and forth and new texts have been shared by both sides repeatedly – that’s what a negotiation is.”


This article was written by Daniel Boffey in Luxembourg from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Article originally published by The Guardian. Hargreaves Lansdown is not responsible for its content or accuracy and may not share the author's views. News and research are not personal recommendations to deal. All investments can fall in value so you could get back less than you invest.

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