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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 
unwillingly."

   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.


(KR)

 
 
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