Brexit deal in sight but United Kingdom must still do more


Last week, a source said the government planned to hold a special sitting of parliament on October 19, following an EU summit on October 17-18 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to secure a deal to leave the European Union.

Johnson took over from his predecessor Theresa May in July on a promise not to extend Brexit for a third time this year - even if only a few more weeks are needed to get a deal done.

That would be a step too far for Johnson's Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, and many Brexit supporters in his party.

The UK approach was to claim that they wanted a deal (satisfying the hard Brexit zealots and the DUP), but were determined to leave at the end of October without a deal if the European Union would not compromise.

The news came as negotiators continued talks this morning in an attempt to have a deal agreed before the beginning of the two-day European summit on Thursday.

However, while Johnson's latest proposals have reignited talks, the European Union believes his proposals are complicated, incomplete, and will take weeks to negotiate for there to be a deal.

Diplomats see little hope that the sides can achieve in a few days what they had failed to in the more than three years since Britons first voted to leave the bloc after almost 50 years.

But EU officials say Johnson won't give the green light to an accord unless he is sure the DUP will back it.

European diplomats said Britain has already given ground on customs rules for Northern Ireland, but must go further quickly if a deal is to be done this month.

Outgoing EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker said British politics were getting more hard to decipher than the riddle of an "Egyptian sphinx".

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"The initial indications (from the EU) are that we are making progress, negotiations are moving in the right direction", he said.

The question is how to prevent the border becoming a backdoor into the EU's single market without erecting controls which could undermine the 1998 peace agreement that ended decades of conflict in the province. "There is a pathway to a possible deal but there are many issues that still need to be resolved", he said.

After more than three years of Brexit crisis that has claimed the scalps of two British prime ministers, Johnson will have to ratify any last-minute deal in parliament, which will hold its first Saturday sitting since the 1982 Falklands War.

But both sides say gaps remain over plans for keeping goods and people flowing freely across the Irish border, the thorniest issue in the talks.

Finland's European Union affairs minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, said the European Union must prepare for a no-deal and another extension of the tortuous divorce process.

Stef Blok, the Netherlands" foreign minister, said Britain's proposals were still "not enough to guarantee that the internal market will be protected'.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio on Wednesday that there was a "glimmer of hope" that a Brexit deal could be reached before Britain's scheduled departure on October 31.

Mr Barnier was reported to have raised concern about the complexity of a British plan to keep Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom customs territory while avoiding the need for border controls. "But if Boris Johnson were to ask for extra time - which probably he won't - I would consider it unhistoric to refuse such a request".

"What is important is that we stick to our principles, we get a deal that respects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom and that means all of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland included". But EU diplomats were pessimistic about the chances of Johnson's hybrid customs proposal for the Irish border riddle.