JOHNSON IN BRUSSELS FOR CRUCIAL BREXIT SUMMIT
Boris Johnson is heading to Brussels for a crunch EU summit as he tries to get a Brexit deal breakthrough across the line.
After a roller coaster few days of political twists and turns when an agreement seemed within touching distance, talks continued as the Prime Minister faced his EU counterpart before an expected Parliamentary showdown Saturday.
The PM's hopes of an end to the deal deadlock on Wednesday night were dashed as Tory allies the DUP appeared to dig in against elements of the proposed agreement.
The DUP is unhappy with the prospect of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, as well as issues of consent regarding the suspended Stormont assembly.
Another sticking point in the proposed agreement appeared to be whether EU VAT rates would apply in Northern Ireland.
Talks between the UK and EU looked set to go down to the wire before the EU heads of government gathering.
Mr Johnson needs to get an agreement approved at the summit if he is to avert a major political bust-up over asking Brussels to delay Brexit beyond the scheduled October 31 deadline.
A compromise could see the leaders looking at a political agreement, rather than a legal text.
However, the PM could take some comfort from the stance of arch-Brexiteer Conservative MP Steve Baker.
After a meeting in Downing Street, the chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) told Sky News: "We have made great progress in our discussions with Number 10.
"We know there will be compromises, but we will be looking at this deal in minute detail, with a view to supporting it.
"But until we get that text, we can't say."
During a brief address to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers on Wednesday, Mr Johnson compared the situation to climbing Mount Everest, according to MPs who attended.
Referring to the Prime Minister, leading Brexiteer Mark Francois said: "He said, 'We are not quite at the summit, we are at the Hillary Step'.
"'The summit is not far but at the moment there is still cloud around the summit'."
Earlier on Wednesday, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay confirmed that Mr Johnson will write a letter asking for an Article 50 extension if no deal is in place by Saturday, something the Prime Minister has repeatedly ruled out.
The PM has promised that Britain will quit the bloc on Halloween "do or die".
DUP leader Arlene Foster moved to reject a suggestion that her party had accepted the latest proposals in the deal regarding Northern Ireland consent issues.
She tweeted: "Discussions continue. Needs to be a sensible deal which unionists and nationalists can support."
MPs could decide on Thursday whether whether Parliament will sit on Saturday after the EU summit.
Their approval for such a move would allow Mr Johnson to put any deal to MPs in a proposed extraordinary sitting of Parliament on Saturday, between 9.30am and 2pm.
Saturday is a key date for the Prime Minister as the Benn Act passed by MPs trying to prevent a no-deal Brexit states he must write to Brussels asking for a delay if Parliament does not agree to a deal by then.Published: by Radio NewsHub