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October 18, 2019
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EU and Britain agree to intensify Brexit talks

British and EU negotiators yesterday agreed to intensify efforts to find a new Brexit withdrawal agreement, just days before a key European summit.
European Union member states will review progress on Monday, following a meeting between influential leaders French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
A European diplomat, however, said EU ambassadors may gather as soon as tomorrow for a stock taking if Barnier feels there is any backsliding from the British side.
The stepped-up negotiations came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar held a meeting on Thursday both sides dubbed “promising”. That led to a Brussels working breakfast yesterday between EU negotiator Michel Barnier and British Brexit minister Stephen Barclay to break the talks logjam.
Neither side revealed much detail about what was discussed.
But a European official said: “Basically, the British are ready to evolve on the question of customs, towards an all-island economy.”
Asked whether the British province of Northern Ireland might remain in the EU customs union after Brexit, Johnson refused to give what he called a “running commentary” on negotiations.
“I can certainly tell you that under no circumstances will we see anything that damages the ability of the whole of the UK, to take full advantage of Brexit,” he said.
The president of the European Council Donald Tusk, who hosts next week’s summit, had said he would have pulled the plug on plans to discuss Brexit if there was no hope of progress.
But, after Barnier’s meetings, the European Commission said: “The EU and the UK have agreed to intensify discussions over the coming days.
“The commission will take stock with the European Parliament and member states again on Monday,” it added, to allow time to draw up the agenda of Thursday’s EU summit.
Barnier’s team has long been in “technical talks” with British officials, but without making enough progress towards a treaty text that could forestall a chaotic “no-deal” Brexit on October 31.
But after the “constructive” breakfast with Barclay, Barnier was given the go-ahead from member state ambassadors to begin a more detailed negotiation on a path towards a possible draft text.
This, officials said, could clear the way for a Brexit deal in the coming weeks — or at least provide enough evidence of possible progress to justify postponing Britain’s departure.
A European official said the weekend talks were not a diplomatic “tunnel” — from which no leaks were meant to escape — of the kind that preceded the signing of a detailed withdrawal agreement last year, which was later rejected by British MPs.


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