EU's Juncker upbeat on Brexit agreement, no-deal not an option

PA Archive  PA Images               DUP leader Arlene Foster Chief Whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson then Chief Whip Gavin Williamson and Theresa May

PA Archive PA Images DUP leader Arlene Foster Chief Whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson then Chief Whip Gavin Williamson and Theresa May

After a summer sell-off fuelled by a spike in worries Britain would exit the European Union without a trade deal in place, sterling has recovered in recent weeks as optimism grows that Brussels and London can overcome differences and reach an agreement. It follows comments by the United Kingdom foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, comparing the EU to the Soviet Union.

Britain is due to leave the European Union in March, but talks on managing the unprecedented split have been stalled over differences on how to avoid border checks between EU-member Ireland and Britain's province of Northern Ireland.

One senior European Union diplomat said the bloc could seek to attach additional conditions to any such agreement but they have not yet been specified.

He seemed particularly annoyed at the suggestion his name would be associated with the first exit from the European Union of a full member-state, and was vehemently denied that he should take a portion of the blame: "I am always amazed about what I am always blamed for".

But in the event that no deal is reached by the Brexit deadline, both sides agree there needs to be a "backstop" solution - which means a last resort plan - that would keep the Irish border open.

"But now that the Congress of the conservative Party is finished, we should get back to work", said the european leader.

Ireland's deputy prime minister said the Brexit negotiators need to "lock themselves into a room" for the next two weeks to hammer out a deal.

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But officials have been meeting behind the scenes before a key summit in Brussels on October 17 and 18.

But he held out the offer a "Canada+++" trade deal, which was welcomed by many Brexit-supporting politicians as the basis for a final deal. "To do free trade you have to do fair trade as well", Varadkar said in a nod to deep concerns on this issue that have been raised by France, the Netherlands and other member states.

Asked in an interview whether an agreement could be reached at the next meeting of European leaders in 11 days' time, Mr Juncker said: "We are not that far yet".

The deal appears to be dependent on Mrs May accepting different customs arrangements in Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, which she has been clear she will not accept.

The DUP, which props up Theresa May's government, has ruled out backing any agreement which treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK.

The Canada +++ deal was the favoured option of former Brexit secretary Davis Davis "and essentially what Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, is demanding (although Johnson calls it Super Canada)" says The Guardian.

"What I do know is that we need a backstop, a protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland as part of a withdrawal agreement", he said, adding "I think we are entering a critical and decisive stage of these negotiations and there is a good opportunity to clinch a deal over the next couple of weeks".

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