UK, Ireland leaders agree Brexit deal 'possible'

Nigel Farage

The two sides are tussling over the backstop agreement - an insurance policy championed by the EU to keep Northern Ireland in the bloc's customs union in order to prevent the creation of a physical border which could threaten peace on the island - which the United Kingdom argues is undemocratic.

"Brexit is like climbing a mountain", the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said after a "constructive" meeting with Britain's Brexit Minister Stephen Barclay on Friday morning.

With the Irish backstop being one of the main issues of the former Prime Minister's Brexit deal, Johnson met with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar, 40, recently with both in agreement a "pathway to a possible deal" is now on the horizon.

Speaking to reporters at the airport, Varadkar later said the meeting was "very positive", suggesting it would be a "short pathway, rather than a long one". The key sticking point in the Brexit negotiations is the border between European Union member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland, with time running out ahead of Britain's scheduled departure in barely three weeks. The leaders of Britain and Ireland said they spotted a "pathway" to an elusive Brexit deal as hopes for a breakthrough dimmed before the U.K.'s October 31 deadline to leave the European Union.

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It is still far from clear whether the talks will produce a workable draft text before the key European Union summit starting on October 17. "Barnier will have to say whether we can or can't start negotiating a text", a European source told AFP.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which supports Johnson's minority government, would have an effective veto on post-Brexit customs checks on the Irish border under proposals put forward by Johnson last week.

That is despite the so-called Benn Act - passed by MPs last month - demanding he request a delay to the Article 50 deadline from the European Union until January 2020 if a deal has not been agreed before 19 October. But Brussels is adamant it will not agree to any plan that undermines the single market - which allows free movement of goods across Europe - or exacerbates tensions on the island of Ireland.

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