Published: Sat, October 19, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Speculation over Brexit deal based on major shift by United Kingdom government

Speculation over Brexit deal based on major shift by United Kingdom government

That comes after the Prime Minister of Finland, which now has the rotating presidency of the European Union, said there will be no agreement before this week's two-day leader summit.

That could mean yet another delay to Britain's departure, now due to take place on October 31.

Meanwhile, the leaders were hoping that the summit could rise above the Brexit mire and focus also on a fractious European Union budget debate, bids by North Macedonia and Albania to start talks to join the bloc, and the crisis in relations with Turkey.

Last Thursday, Johnson managed to win some confidence he could still secure an agreement after meeting Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Johnson hopes to get approval for the agreement in a vote at an extraordinary session of the British parliament on Saturday, to pave the way for an orderly departure on October 31.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers from Johnson's governing Conservative Party say they will only back a deal if it has gained the support of the DUP, which fears Northern Ireland could be left behind in the EU's orbit when Britain leaves.

Barclay also confirmed that PM Boris Johnson will write a letter to the EU on Saturday requesting a delay to Brexit if no deal is agreed at the European Council meeting later this week.

On Monday, Irish deputy premier Simon Coveney raised hopes on an agreement being reached before the European Union summit by saying a deal could possibly be achieved as soon as this week.

Johnson, meanwhile, likened Brexit to climbing Mount Everest, saying the summit was in sight, though still shrouded in cloud.

Briefing European commissioners, their chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said "ongoing talks have been constructive but there still remains a number of significant issues to resolve".

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Both sides were hoping that after more than three years of false starts and sudden reversals, a clean divorce deal for Britain leaving the bloc might be sketched out within the coming hours.

BBC political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said she understood the two leaders had agreed on the need to avoid any further delays if possible.

It comes after The Guardian said the United Kingdom has made further concessions over the issue of customs and the Irish border.

But the DUP will find it hard to accept a reported offer to allow Northern Ireland to stick to European Union customs rules after Brexit, which the European Union wants to see to avoid the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The big question is how far Johnson's government is prepared to budge on its insistence that the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland, must leave the EU's customs union - something that would require checks on goods passing between the United Kingdom and the EU.

"The EU's conditions are very, very modest".

The alternative is to have checks in the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Without it, any Brexit deal is likely to be rejected by Britain's Parliament - which has already voted down prospective deals three times.

As staunch unionists committed to keeping Northern Ireland in the U.K., DUP politicians are opposed to any Brexit deal that could weaken the bonds between their region and the rest of the country.

DUP leader Arlene Foster scoffed at "nonsense" reports that she was ready to give way. "I don't want to raise expectations, but later on today or this evening", if there is going to be a deal for this week's summit, "a big step forward needs to happen today", he said.

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