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

Remigio Civitarese
Ottobre 13, 2019

The PM must return from the crucial summit of heads of government with a deal he can get past MPs by October 19 if he is not to face demands to comply with the Benn Act. "It's a ridiculous idea".

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".

"No level playing field protections".

Dramatic progress could lead to the start of so-called intensive "tunnel" negotiations in the coming days, ahead of the crunch European Union heads of government summit.

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.

British and European Union officials will continue Brexit talks over the weekend amid rising speculation a deal is on the cards which could break the deadlock over the Irish border.

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.

The main issue under discussion during the weekend talks is where the final borders of independent Ireland and British Northern Ireland will be drawn, according to the wire service.

With the British Parliament and government both rejecting the withdrawal treaty negotiated by Theresa May, and the European Union rejecting a rehash of the treaty with some alternative arrangements for the customs border between EU member-state the Republic of Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland put forward by Boris Johnson, the United Kingdom is now headed for a clean break with the bloc - or, if anti-Brexit MPs have their way, yet another Brexit delay.

Following the meetings on Friday, the European Commission reiterated its position, stating that "there must be a legally operative solution in the Withdrawal Agreement that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all-island economy and the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions, and safeguards the integrity of the Single Market".

Meanwhile the DUP warned they would only back measures that were in the "long-term economic and constitutional interests " of Northern Ireland.

However, Italian newspaper Repubblica has quoted Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, as saying that Mr Johnson's proposed solution to break the Brexit deadlock can not work because Northern Ireland must remain in a full United Kingdom customs union.

"As a effect of the mandate given to us by voters in 2017 (general election) the DUP is very relevant in the parliamentary arithmetic and regardless of the ups and downs of the Brexit discussions that has not changed".

"No, it can not work", Mr Dodds said, "because Northern Ireland has to remain fully part of the United Kingdom customs union".

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