Brexit: Talks continuing amid claims deal is close

New Conservative Party leader and incoming prime minister Boris Johnson gives a speech at an event to announce the winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest in central London on July 23, 2019. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP)

London, Oct 16 (IANS) The UK government is playing down reports of an imminent Brexit deal with the EU, saying talks are still ongoing.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to get a fresh agreement by Thursday’s EU summit, but his spokesman said there was “more work still to do”.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had said the two sides must agree the details by the end of Tuesday.

The BBC reports said that it was not clear whether a text could be signed off by then.

According to the BBC reports, Barnier was due to brief EU ambassadors on Wednesday, after a possible European Commissioners meeting, meaning a new deal could get the “green light” from Brussels.

Media reports said that a draft treaty could be published on Wednesday, claiming the UK has made further concessions over the issue of customs and the Irish border.

The UK Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “Talks remain constructive, but there is more work still to do.”

Meanwhile, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said talks were “moving in the right direction” but gaps between the sides remained, and it was still unclear whether a deal would be ready in time for the Brussels summit.

His deputy, Tánaiste Simon Coveney, said earlier that “big steps” were needed on Tuesday “to build on progress that has been slow” because there would be no haggling over the details of the text once the summit began.

The two-day EU summit is crucial because, under legislation passed last month — the Benn Act — the UK Prime Minister must get a new deal approved by MPs by Saturday if he is to avoid asking for a delay.

The UK is due to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT on October 31 and Boris Johnson has said that deadline must be honoured.

He is trying to hold together a coalition of Conservative Brexiteers and Democratic Unionists in support of his proposed alternative to the Irish backstop — the arrangement designed to keep an open border in Ireland.

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