Britain and EU edge closer to a possible deal

European Union

Britain’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and the European Union (EU)’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier met Friday and agreed to have further talks aimed at finding a solution to hurdles blocking the way for Britain’s exit from the EU.

The agreement to continue dialogue came as media in London reported that the European Commission said Britain’s new proposals to resolve the border issue between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic do not amount to legally operational solutions.

Hopes of a deal were raised Thursday when European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave the strongest signal yet that a deal between Brussels and London may be possible.

Barclay said after talks with Barnier there is a shared sense of purpose to get a deal over the line.

They agreed to carry on with technical talks aimed at finding an alternative or replacement for the backstop arrangement demanded by the EU to prevent a hard border on the island or Ireland. They also agreed to discuss improving on the political declaration that would set out Britain’s future relationship with the EU after its membership ends.

Barclay said after Friday’s meeting: “No one wants to see a no-deal. It would be disruptive for both sides and that’s why there is a shared sense of purpose to get a deal over the line.”

Barnier, interviewed Friday by the BBC in Brussels, said: “I am not optimistic, I am not pessimistic, I am still determined. Brexit is a school of patience but we are still ready to reach an agreement.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has insisted that Britain will end its membership of the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a deal with Brussels.

Despite the positive sign that talks between negotiators from both sides will continue next week, the Daily Telegraph reported that a leaked memo, shared with diplomats from the 27 member states of the EU, said plans on a solution to the border issue would have to be developed during a transition period after Britain leaves the bloc.

The Telegraph said this was in line with comments Johnson reportedly made to colleagues, saying he did not expect to find a legally operable solution before the crunch talks with the EU at its crucial council meeting starting Oct. 17.

The British government’s target is to strike a deal with Brussels at the Oct. 17 EU council meeting to put before the British parliament ahead of the looming departure date.

Another thread of hope for Johnson came from the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte who said a Brexit deal by Oct. 31 is still possible.

Rutte, according to media reports, stated he would not rule out a Brexit deal before the deadline, saying, “with a few nights of hard work a lot can be done, but it all starts with the will to agree.”

Brexit will also dominate discussions in the English channel resort of Brighton where the main opposition Labour Party starts its annual conference this weekend. A number of delegates are reported to be pressing for a commitment by the party to support a remain policy in a general election. Enditem

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