Published: Wed, October 09, 2019

European Union ready to make "major concession" on Brexit deal

European Union ready to make

A Downing Street source said that following a telephone call between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, it was apparent that "a deal is essentially impossible not just now but ever".

She warned that any deal was "essentially impossible" if London failed to give ground on the thorny Irish border question and keep British-run Northern Ireland in the EU customs union, the source added.

But many in the European Union - and in Britain - are skeptical that Britain will leave the bloc that day, because the U.K. Parliament has passed a law compelling the government to ask the European Union for a delay to Brexit if no deal is agreed upon by October 19.

Merkel was quoted as saying that a deal now looked "overwhelmingly unlikely", and added that the Brexit talks were "close to breaking down".

Johnson's proposal envisages Northern Ireland leave the EU's customs union alongside the rest of the United Kingdom at the start of 2021.

In Belfast, Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, described a suggestion that Northern Ireland would be kept in the EU Customs Union as beyond insane.

Campaigners argued that leaving a ruling until after October 19 would cause "massive" legal uncertainty; to wait until the deadline had passed would spark serious administrative and practical obstacles to enacting a legal remedy ahead of Britain leaving the European Union without a deal on October 31.

It's unclear whether Johnson's government might be able to find a loophole in that legislation that would enable it to stick to his promise to pull Britain out of the European Union, with or without a deal, on the 31st.

"It is of course possible for a host of reasons that we might leave on October 31 without a deal", he said.

In Berlin, Merkel's office said it would not comment "on such confidential discussions".

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says it will be very hard to secure a Brexit agreement by next week.

"For the United Kingdom to be asked to leave a part of its sovereign territory in a foreign organisation of which the UK would no longer be a part and over which we would have no say whatsoever is beyond insane", she said.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk has also accused Johnson of not taking the negotiations seriously enough and playing "some stupid blame game".

"The last trading weeks have been one big highlight of how fragile the rally in the pound was over August and September", said Lars Merklin, a strategist at Danske Bank A/S. Sassoli will meet with Johnson on Tuesday evening.

"Both sides strongly reiterated their desire to reach a Brexit deal", the spokesman said. Their position is that the United Kingdom can only leave with a deal if it agrees a binding piece of global law permanently tying either the whole country or a part of it to the EU's legal order.

But EU officials quashed those reports on Wednesday morning, saying there was "no bold new offer" coming from their side, with diplomats dismissing the reports as "spin". He has also repeatedly demanded an election but parliament has refused to grant one.

He said: "In my mind it is completely improbable that the phone call between Merkel and Johnson took place in the way it has been reported in the British media".

Under a proposed U.K. Brexit plan there would be customs checks, but Britain says they could be conducted away from Northern Ireland's border.

Downing Street has neither confirmed nor denied the source's remarks.

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