European Union gives nod to new round of secret Brexit talks with UK

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

The talks had appeared to be on the verge of collapse earlier this week after the United Kingdom government briefed that brokering a deal was "essentially impossible", but were surprisingly revived following three hours of talks between United Kingdom premier Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union (EU) on October 31. "I have already said that the Brexit is like climbing a mountain and we need vigilance, determination and patience".

Negotiators have been given the green light for talks to enter the so-called "tunnel" phase - diplomatic jargon for talks continuing in secret between a small group of negotiators in complete secrecy - with a view to presenting a deal ahead of the European Union summit on 17 and 18 October.

Barnier was to brief European Union ambassadors and key legislators later Friday, amid a sense that there remains a glimmer of hope to get an amicable divorce deal with Britain.

Marc Burleigh, Brussels correspondent for AFP, indicates that "tunnel" negotiatons are essentially just regular negotiations without breifings or leaks, conducted in an "intense" way - which rather raises the question of what European Union and British negotiators have been doing up until now, considering Brexit was originally supposed to take place on March 29th and its current deadline is only twenty days away.

Donald Tusk, the European Union council president, said on Friday he had told the prime minister to present his Brexit proposals to the European Union by next Thursday but added that "positive signals" were now emerging from London. The EU has a two-day summit starting next Thursday.

"A no-deal Brexit will never be the choice of the EU", Tusk said.

The meeting on Friday appears to signify a change of tone in Brexit negotiations, which had reached an impasse mainly over the Irish backstop agreement. If it is time for the sake of time? "If there is a will, there is a way" she said. "It has taken one year, even three years, and we don't really get it", she said.

The pound rose 2% against the dollar to $1.246 on the news as the focus shifted to Brussels, where Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay arrived for discussions with Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator.

A British spokesman also described the closed-door talks as a "constructive meeting".

Johnson did not make a public comment after the meeting in an apparent attempt to rebuild trust between the leaders, which has soured in recent weeks, and avoid derailing any breakthroughs, but Downing Street echoed Varadkar's claim that the leaders had identified the "pathway to a deal".

The main stumbling block remains how the U.K.'s only land border, between Britain and Ireland, is dealt with.

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