EU, Britain scramble to reach Brexit deal before summit

16 October, 2019 12:00 AM printer

LUXEMBOURG: British and EU negotiators on Tuesday scrambled to put together a draft text for a Brexit deal with just two days to go before a key European summit, reports AFP.

Both sides voiced cautious optimism that an accord could be reached this week, though European ministers warned they would not let Britain use Northern Ireland as a back door to the single market.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier told member states a legal text must be on the table by Wednesday morning at the latest if it is to be signed off by leaders at the EU summit starting Thursday, in time for a special sitting of the British parliament on Saturday.

European diplomats said London has already given ground on customs rules for Northern Ireland, but must go further quickly if a deal is to be done this month—allowing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to fulfil his pledge to lead Britain out on October 31.

“The negotiating teams have made progress but it has been slow and they will have to make significant progress today if there is to be a deal that Michel Barnier can report on tomorrow to the EU capitals in advance of the leaders’ summit,” Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney told reporters in Luxembourg.

As he arrived in Luxembourg to brief the other 27 EU states on the progress of the closed-door talks, Barnier struck a cautiously upbeat note.