Brexit Deal in Sight as Negotiators Start to Thrash Out Details

Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Cheshire yesterday

The EU Commision later confirmed that the EU and the United Kingdom will now "intensify discussions over the coming days", reaffirming their position that a "legally operative" solution was required to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland - the main sticking point for Brussels.

Mr Starmer poured scorn on suggestions Mr Johnson could get round the law by accompanying a request for an extension with a second letter to the European Union saying he did not really want one.

"Brexit is like climbing a mountain", Barnier said.

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, approved an intensification of the discussions after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, said they could see a "pathway" forward following talks on Thursday.

Donald Tusk, the European Union council president, said on Friday he had told the prime minister to present his Brexit proposals to the European Union by next Thursday but added that "positive signals" were now emerging from London.

The European Commission has confirmed that the EU and British teams "have agreed to intensify discussions over the coming day", but according to CNN reporter Bianca Nobilo this falls short of "secret tunnel talks", and is "more of a journey into Plato's cave".

The Prime Minister said that while both sides could see a "pathway" towards an agreement, there is still "a way to go". "I have received promising signals from the taoiseach that a deal is still possible", Mr Tusk said, during a trip to Cyprus.

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The shadow Brexit secretary said that if the prime minister is unable to reach an agreement with Brussels by 31 October, he must comply with the Benn act and seek a further delay.

Just two days before Thursday's breakthrough, Johnson's advisors said that brokering a compromise was "essentially impossible" following a hard meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Of course there is no guarantee of success and the time is practically up but even the slightest chance must be used".

Barnier was expected to brief the European Parliament's Brexit Steering group on progress on Friday afternoon. This would have the twin benefit of preventing a border on the island of Ireland and enabling the U.K.to strike trade deals around the world.

Leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party Arlene Foster said "anything that traps Northern Ireland in the EU, whether single market or customs union, as the rest of the United Kingdom leaves will not have our support - the prime minister is very mindful of that".

Government sources have said ministers are preparing to hold an emergency Saturday sitting of Parliament on October 19.

If a deal did emerge, Mr Johnson would also need the backing of the DUP and Eurosceptic Tories to have any chance of getting it through without opposition support.

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