UK, EU Brexit Talks Down to the Wire 10/13 10:08
LONDON (AP) -- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Cabinet colleagues
that it will require a "significant amount of work" to strike a Brexit deal
with the European Union, amid signs of progress in last-minute talks but also
deep-seated skepticism about the chances of an agreement.
Britain is due to leave the 28-nation bloc on Oct. 31, and attempts to find
a deal have foundered over plans for keeping an open border between EU member
Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.
The challenge of maintaining an invisible border --- something that
underpinned both the local economy and the region's peace deal --- has
dominated Brexit discussions for three years, ever since U.K. voters chose in
2016 to leave the EU.
But negotiations intensified last week after Johnson and Irish Prime
Minister Leo Varadkar said they could see a "pathway" to a divorce agreement
that avoids a no-deal Brexit, something economists say would hurt both the U.K.
and EU economies.
Both sides say substantial gaps remain and it's unclear whether they can be
bridged in time for an orderly British departure at the end of this month. A
crucial EU summit, the last scheduled chance to strike a deal, begins Thursday.
Johnson's office said he told the Cabinet on Sunday in a conference call
"that a pathway to a deal could be seen but that there is still a significant
amount of work to get there and we must remain prepared to leave on Oct. 31"
even if there is no agreement.
If a Brexit deal is reached, it still needs to be approved by both British
and European parliaments. Many British lawmakers --- on both pro-Brexit and
pro-EU sides of the debate --- remain unconvinced.
Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Sunday that his party was
unlikely to support any deal agreed upon by Johnson.
Lawmaker Nigel Dodds of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party ---
which props up Johnson's Conservative minority government --- has rejected one
suggested compromise, in which Northern Ireland stayed in a customs partnership
with the EU in order to remove the need for border checks. The DUP strongly
opposes any measures that would treat Northern Ireland differently than the
rest of the U.K.
But other Brexit supporters signaled they could back such a deal. House of
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, a strong Brexiteer, said a "compromise will
inevitably be needed, something even the staunchest Leavers recognize, albeit
Rees-Mogg told Sky News that the chances of a Brexit agreement were rising.
"I think it's always difficult to put specific odds on things, but it
certainly looks a lot more positive this week than it did last week," he said.