EU, Britain agree to intensify Brexit talks

BRITAIN-IRELAND-EU-BREXIT-POLITICS

BRITAIN-IRELAND-EU-BREXIT-POLITICS

The pound rose 2% against the dollar to $1.246 on the news as the focus shifted to Brussels, where Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay arrived for discussions with Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator. "Whatever it takes, we will prevent a no-deal Brexit".

Donald Tusk handed Boris Johnson a last-minute reprieve after talks with Leo Varadkar raised the prospects of a Brexit deal, but he warned the United Kingdom still has not presented a "workable, realistic proposal".

Addressing the Co-operative Party conference in Glasgow, Mr Starmer said that if Mr Johnson was unable to secure a deal at next week's crucial European Union summit, he must comply with the so-called Benn Act and seek a further delay.

"There's a way to go, it's important now that our negotiators on both sides get into proper talks about how to sort this thing out and if they can't then we have to be ready, as this country is and will be, to come out with no deal if we absolutely have to".

"And I do see a pathway towards an agreement in the coming weeks".

The softer mood music after Mr Johnson's meeting with the Taoiseach followed an intensive few days which saw an acrimonious war of words explode and the talks appear close to collapse.

On Friday Mr Johnson said there was "a way to go" before a deal could be reached.

The Taoiseach said a deal was possible after more than two hours of talks but warned that "there's many a slip between cup and lip".

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Ambassadors from the 27 remaining European Union member states gave the green light for Michel Barnier to open the new phase of accelerated talks on Friday.

"Brexit is like climbing a mountain", Barnier said.

Barnier was expected to brief the European Parliament's Brexit Steering group on progress on Friday afternoon.

Following the meetings on Friday, the European Commission reiterated its position, stating that "there must be a legally operative solution in the Withdrawal Agreement that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all-island economy and the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions, and safeguards the integrity of the Single Market".

The talks had appeared to be on the verge of collapse earlier this week after the United Kingdom government briefed that brokering a deal was "essentially impossible", but were surprisingly revived following three hours of talks between United Kingdom premier Boris Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday.

Asked whether the British province of Northern Ireland might remain in the EU customs union after Brexit, Johnson refused to give what he called a "running commentary" on the negotiations.

There has been speculation that Mr Johnson could now try to revive a compromise proposal first put forward by former prime minister Theresa May that would see Northern Ireland remain politically in a customs union with the EU, but that it would be administered by the UK.

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