Cannot say when Brexit deal could be reached, says EU's Barnier

Sir Keir Starmer

European leaders are awaiting Barnier's assessment as to whether sufficient progress has been made in the Brexit negotiations for an EU summit to be convened to announce a deal.

European Union officials on Wednesday (7 November) poured cold water on hopes of holding a special summit this month to seal a Brexit divorce, saying talks have made some progress - but not enough.

Brussels' chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said "more work is needed" but "we remain determined to reach a deal".

"I believe it possible to reach an agreement in November, but every day that passes lessens the possibility of having an extraordinary summit in November", said the irish Prime minister Leo Varadkar, also in Helsinki on Wednesday.

"Seven days is probably pushing it but I am optimistic that there will be a Brexit deal", Hunt said, adding that it is "very, very hard to resolve but I am confident that we can".

"But we do have one scheduled for the 13th, 14th of December, so not getting it done in November doesn't mean we can't get it done in the first two weeks of December".

In a wide-ranging speech that moved from European defence to electric vehicles, he mentioned Brexit only to promise to "fulfill my Brexit mission to the end" and make a brief opening joke that his speech would be short because "the clock is ticking".


"I think some initially thought it might have some news regarding Ireland and the border but I am told it doesn't have any of that".

"We need this treaty as a +backstop+ (safety net), that is to say, an insurance policy, to be certain that there will be no border lasts on the island of Ireland".

The issue of the Irish border - and how to avoid customs checks that could undermine the Northern Ireland peace deal - has forced the negotiations into an impasse. A crucial cabinet meeting to agree the UK's Brexit negotiating position was delayed from Thursday to the weekend or early next week amid a row over whether senior ministers should be given the government's full legal advice on the backstop.

And Tusk has said he would not call the summit that would approve such a treaty until Barnier had been able to report to him that "decisive progress" had been made towards agreement.

Barnier is this week at the meeting of his European People's Party in Helsinki and there is nothing on his public agenda about an imminent meeting with Britain's Brexit minister Dominic Raab.

If May fails to clinch a Brexit deal with the European Union, or parliament votes down her deal, then Britain would face leaving without a divorce deal, and thus without a transition period.

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