Published: Tue, October 15, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Merkel likens Brexit talks to 'squaring circle'

Merkel likens Brexit talks to 'squaring circle'

British and European negotiators on Sunday played down hopes of a rapid breakthrough in their last-ditch bid to strike an amicable Brexit divorce deal.

London's Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay will join Barnier in Luxembourg later in the morning in what is being seen as a positive sign for progress in the talks - which have been shrouded in secrecy since the weekend as the two sides seek to avoid potentially damaging leaks.

"The key message to parties in the talks is if you want to influence the abortion reform that has been set by Westminster we need to get movement this week", Mr Smith told UTV.

The sticking point remains the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop meant to guarantee there is no return of a hard border with the Republic.

In what has been called an "unprecedented backlash", British drugmakers, along with other manufacturing industries, are warning the government of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson that his plans for trade arrangements after a possible deal for the country's withdrawal from the European Union could hurt their ability to compete, according to a news report.

The British government says it will deliver its annual budget on November 6, a week after the country is due to leave the European Union. "The clock is ticking".

Johnson took office in July vowing no more delays to Brexit, after his predecessor, Theresa May, twice postponed in a failed attempt to get her own divorce deal through the British Parliament. Downing Street sources say it is to allow for a fuller update on Brexit.

Breaking that pledge could come back to haunt him in an early general election that most predict for the coming months.

"Failing that, the law says the government will have to ask for an extension but our efforts and energy are going into getting a deal and leaving on October 31".

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"The prime minister fully intends for us to leave by October 31, he will stand by that". While Johnson has not explicitly proposed this scenario, he has not ruled it out.

Michel Barnier said ahead of a meeting with European Union foreign ministers that the main challenge now is to turn British proposals on the complex issue of the border on the island of Ireland into something binding.

Britain will only avoid a chaotic breakup with its closest trading partners if the agreement is also passed by the United Kingdom parliament - something it has failed to do three times.

"Such a hybrid customs territory like the British are proposing for Northern Ireland does not work anywhere in the world, it seems", an European Union diplomat said.

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

"And Boris Johnson knows it very well", Dodds told Italy's La Repubblica newspaper.

Several DUP MPs sound unconvinced, but Johnson may not need their votes if he cannot secure enough support between MPs and retain the support of his own party.

Mr Johnson's alternative for replacing the backstop is thought to be a dual customs arrangement which would see Northern Ireland subject to European Union tariffs on goods, but de facto remain within the UK's customs jurisdiction.

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