Irish PM sees chances fading for November Brexit deal

Blanche Robertson
November 8, 2018

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also said today that as the days went by a summit in November was getting less likely.

"But I think beyond that you're into the new year which I think wouldn't be a good thing".

European leaders are awaiting Barnier's assessment as to whether sufficient progress has been made in the Brexit negotiations for an EU summit to be convened to announce a deal. Negotiators from both sides, however, remain at odds over ways to guarantee there is no return of border controls on the frontier between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

"We need much more work" to clinch an agreement, Michel Barnier told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a congress of center-right political parties in Helsinki, Finland. But officials have repeatedly cautioned they are still haggling over the fate of the land border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland.

For Dublin and Brussels, the so-called "backstop" means that if Britain fails to negotiate a free trade deal within a 21-month transition period, Northern Ireland must remain in the single market.

In a wide-ranging speech that moved from European defence to electric vehicles, he mentioned Brexit only to promise to "fulfill my Brexit mission to the end" and make a brief opening joke that his speech would be short because "the clock is ticking". "The choices need to be made now on the United Kingdom side", Barnier told reporters after a meeting with Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila.

"Without a backstop there will be no deal".

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In Paris, Britain's foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said Brexit negotiations are in "the final phase" and that he is confident an agreement will be reached.

"This election will be tougher than those before", Barnier said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, in Helsinki, said that British Prime Minister Theresa May "is, as we are, made a decision to have the deal, and we will have a deal".

After May discussed Brexit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Council President Donald Tusk earlier this week, British ministers were shown the text of a deal which is 95 percent agreed.

On Monday, however, Barnier will brief ministers from the other 27 European Union member states on the situation in the talks - even as their capitals ramp up planning for how to deal with a "no deal" Brexit.

"For me, it's always about the objective, more so than the mechanism - what are you actually trying to achieve", Varadkar said on Wednesday. "We hope that the backstop will never need to be used, it is an insurance policy".

Later, addressing leaders of the European People's Party group, Barnier warned of the threat that rising nationalism and populism pose to the EU ahead of European Parliament elections in May.

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