Brexit: EU, UK get go-ahead to intensify talks

Brexit- Flag of European Union

Brexit- Flag of European Union

The accelerated negotiations were agreed to by the EU27 after a "constructive meeting" between the bloc's chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay in Brussels today.

He said the United Kingdom had yet to put forward an "operational, legally binding solution" to replace the Northern Ireland backstop - meant to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic.

European Council President Donald Tusk said the United Kingdom hadn't yet "come forward with a workable, realistic proposal".

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.

"There is a joint feeling that there is a way forward, that we can see a pathway to a deal", he said.

"And I do see a pathway towards an agreement in the coming weeks".

But the details of Mr Johnson's concessions are not yet known.

Meanwhile, British and European Union officials are to continue Brexit talks over the weekend amid speculation a deal is possible, which could break the deadlock over the border.

'And, you know, if they can't then we have to be ready, as this country is and will be, to come out with no-deal if we absolutely have to'.

With parliament set to sit in a special emergency Saturday session at the end of the week, Mr Starmer said it appeared any agreement Mr Johnson was able to negotiate would be "even worse" than Theresa May's rejected deal.

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".

This suggests that the European Union still has reservations about the chances of getting a deal done, and that member states are unwilling to outsource the process entirely to Barnier and his team.

Mr Barnier is due to brief European Union ambassadors and MEPs on Monday on progress.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson will challenge MPs to back any deal he has secured from Brussels when parliament sits on a weekend next Saturday for the first time in nearly four decades, The Times has reported.

With UK officials remaining tight-lipped, there has been intense speculation over what was said at the talks at Thornton Manor between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which enabled the process to move forward.

When asked in a pooled interview for British television, Johnson declined to say whether Northern Ireland will leave the EU's customs union.

"Brexit is like climbing a mountain", Barnier said.

"The EU's position remains the same: 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".

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