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October 17, 2019

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‘Good’ Brexit deal still on the table

BRITAIN’S Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday told senior ministers a “good” Brexit deal was still on the table but further talks were required to cement an agreement.

The last-ditch talks to secure a deal on the eve of a two-day meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels dominated a British cabinet meeting, Johnson’s spokesman said.

Ministers were told there was “a chance of securing a good deal but we are not there yet” because there were “a number of outstanding matters,” he added.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who spoke to Johnson earlier yesterday, also said a deal was still possible “by the end of this month” but there were “many issues that still need to be resolved.”

Johnson was given the cabinet’s “full support” to work up to the deadline, the spokesman told reporters, adding that further talks were being held with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

The DUP, which props up Johnson’s minority government in the UK parliament, is central to talks about future arrangements for the border between EU member Ireland and British-run Northern Ireland.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said there needed to be a “sensible deal which unionists and nationalists can support.”

London, Dublin and Belfast are keen to avoid a hard border given that it could risk reigniting violence between pro-Irish republicans and UK-supporting unionists.

London initially proposed for the entire UK, including Northern Ireland, to leave the EU’s customs union, suggesting there must be customs checks somewhere on goods crossing between north and south.

Brussels has rejected this option and negotiations on a compromise are continuing between all sides.

Johnson is bound by law to ask Brussels for an extension to talks by October 19 if no deal is reached.

MPs are this weekend expected to discuss next steps — deal or no deal — at the first parliamentary session on a Saturday for 37 years.

The British pound has had a wild day, swinging sharply on conflicting reports about the Brexit discussions in Brussels.

Hopes that a Brexit deal will be secured sent the currency surging, while anything that sounded cautious on that prospect sent it into reverse.


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