The European Union and Britain will continue talks today to try to break the deadlock over Brexit, lifting financial markets with a sign that a deal could be done before the Halloween deadline.

A flurry of activity has brought the fraught bargaining process to a new level as Britain’s scheduled departure date of Oct. 31 grows ever closer, but it is still uncertain whether the two sides can make a breakthrough before then.

The move came at the end of a tumultuous week which started with a public row between London and Brussels.

By Thursday British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar said they had found “a pathway” to a possible deal, and by Friday some officials were expressing guarded optimism.

“I think both of us can see a pathway to a deal, but that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal,” Johnson said on Friday. “There’s a way to go, it’s important now our negotiators on both sides get into proper talks about how to sort this thing out.”

Ireland is crucial if a deal is to be done to avert a potentially disorderly Brexit that would hurt global growth, roil financial markets and could even split the United Kingdom.

Dublin will have to consent to any solution to the toughest problem of all: how to prevent the British province of Northern Ireland from becoming a backdoor into the EU’s markets without having border controls.

A diplomat and an EU official said EU negotiator Michel Barnier had told member states that Britain had changed its position and now accepted that its proposed replacement of the so-called “backstop” cannot involve a customs border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The backstop is an insurance policy that was designed to ensure no customs or regulatory checks on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit.

Separately, two senior EU diplomats told Reuters the possible solution could include two elements: keeping Northern Ireland inside the UK’s customs regime while also carrying out any customs and regulatory checks together.

Under a recent UK proposal, the regulatory border would run down the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Britain. The sources said they understood that customs checks could be carried out there as well under the plan now under discussion.

But in a sign of the precarious nature of the talks, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the small Northern Irish party which supports Johnson’s government in parliament, warned it would only compromise so far.

“The DUP has always indicated that the United Kingdom must leave the EU as one nation and in so doing that no barriers to trade are erected within the UK,” leader Arlene Foster said, without rejecting the proposal outright.

Published: by Radio NewsHub
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