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Boris Johnson news: DUP dismisses Brexit breakthrough ‘nonsense’ as government braces for humiliating extension request letter

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Brexit negotiations are continuing overnight Brussels today in a desperate bid to get a political agreement ready in time for a crucial EU leaders’ summit.

Despite progress, EU officials suggested any deal would still have to be delayed by around two months to “resolve technical issues”.

Boris Johnson’s hopes of an agreement before tomorrow’s summit are fading as new hurdles emerge.

DUP leader Arlene Foster dismissed reports of a breakthrough over the issue of consent on customs arrangements as “nonsense”.

But Nicky Morgan, the UK’s culture secretary, said there was a good chance that Britain and the EU could come to an agreement.

“I think there is a good chance of there being a deal,” she said in an interview with ITV’s Peston show.

“Nothing [has been] agreed or announced yet, and of course there is a chance that actually a deal is not agreed.

“So I think we have to wait.”

If you would like to see how the day’s news unfolded, please see what was our live coverage below.


Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of events at Westminster and Brussels, as the UK and EU appeared to be on the brink of reaching a Brexit deal.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is expected to brief ambassadors on the talks around 1pm in Brussels today.

Boris Johnson will brief his cabinet on the state of play around 4pm this afternoon, and will discuss whether to go ahead with a planned Commons sitting on Saturday depending on whether a deal has been reached.

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 08:22

Brexit negotiations are to continue this morning in a bid to get a legal text agreed and ready for a crucial EU summit, after Tuesday’s talks ran into the wee small hours.

Boris Johnson is running out of time to get an agreement in place so it can be approved by European leaders at the Brussels summit starting on Thursday.

A No 10 source said progress was still being made in the talks, which ran to about 1.30am.

Reports had suggested a deal was close ahead of a midnight deadline imposed by the EU, with the PM said to have made major concessions – thought to involve a customs border down the Irish Sea.

Despite optimism overnight, the mood music seems to be slightly different this morning – with Downing Street playing down suggestions a deal was close to be done. “Talks remain constructive but there is more work still to do,” said the PM’s spokesman.

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 08:28

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, is expected to brief ambassadors on the talks around 1pm in Brussels today.

Here’s our Europe correspondent Jon Stone on the state of play with the negotiations.

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 08:29

No-one in Paris or Berlin is getting too carried away by all the optimism. It’s not yet clear leaders in the European capitals will sign off any deal – even if agreed by negotiators today – at the two-day EU leaders’​ summit beginning tomorrow.

One senior French official told The Guardian: “It’s not the Irish who will make the deal ... what matters is the content, and we have seen nothing yet.”

A senior German official told The Times that even a possible political agreement this week would not “resolve technical issues” and said Brexit would have to be delayed by around two months – moving the exit date to 1 January 2020.

Another EU diplomat warned: “Without a deal this week, Britain will need an extension. With a deal this week, Britain will need an extension.”

Could Johnson be ready to accept a delay to his “do or die” deadline? Newly-revealed Tory campaign leaflets suggest as much. The messages are clearly aimed at stunting The Brexit Party’s arguments if the UK hasn’t left the EU by 31 October.

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 08:37

As if there wasn’t enough drama going on, a trio of opposition MPs dead set against a no-deal Brexit have been spotted travelling to Brussels this morning.

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 08:39

Inquiries at City Hall and Parliament into US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri and her links with Boris Johnson will start jointly on Wednesday.

Tech entrepreneur is at the centre of allegations that the PM showed her favouritism by giving her £126,000 in public funding and privileged access to three foreign trade missions while he was mayor of London.

The London Assembly will discuss its investigation on Wednesday at 2pm after Mr Johnson complied with a request for evidence from the oversight committee. Members of the committee have so far agreed with a request from his solicitors for the submitted papers to be kept confidential.

Only a few miles downstream, MPs will at the same time quiz culture secretary Nicky Morgan about a £100,000 grant that the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport gave Arcuri’s business.

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 08:57

Could the DUP be persuaded to back an emerging deal? If so it would be despite the party’s strong opposition to any kind of customs border between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.

Following a 90-minute meeting between Boris Johnson and Arlene Foster, a DUP spokesman said “it would be fair to indicate gaps remain”. Asked later whether she would back a customs border in the Irish Sea, Foster told BBC Newsline: “No. We must remain within the UK’s customs union.”

But there are multiple reports this morning that the DUP have been offered one very clear incentive – money – in a bid to get its backing in the Commons.

The Financial Times says funding offered to Northern Ireland could run into “billions not millions”, while the Irish Times says the prospective deal “will be sweetened for DUP with a multimillion-euro package of investment funded by the EU, London and Dublin”.

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 09:12

Former Brexit secretary David Davis said the DUP’s backing of any deal will still be influential for Tory MPs.

The Conservative MP said Boris Johnson’s reported proposal differs to his predecessors’ because it gives Northern Ireland “equal advantage” outside of the EU.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The test of that will be, of course, the DUP.

“There will be, quote, a lot of Tory MPs who will take their line from what the DUP do.”

He was reminded that a customs divide in the Irish Sea was once described by DUP leader Arlene Foster as a “blood red” line.

“Well let's see when she sees the detail of the deal whether she thinks this is a blood red line or an acceptable compromise,” Davis said.

“I will look at what they say because it will be important, if the DUP says ‘this is intolerable to us’ that will be quite important.”

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 09:29

A cross-party group of opposition MPs – including expelled Tory Dominic Grieve, former Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, Labour’s David Lammy, the Greens’ Caroline Lucas, the SNP’s Peter Grant and Plaid’s Liz Saville Roberts – has arrived in Brussels. It’s not yet clear who exactly they are there to meet.

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 09:38

Mark Francois – one of the so-called Tory “Spartans” has been speaking about the DUP and a possible Brexit deal.

The Brexiteer has suggested he and his fellow members of the ERG may not necessary take their cue from the DUP on whether to back any deal Boris Johnson reaches with the EU.

“The ERG and the DUP have always been firm allies all the way through this process,” he told Sky News, but “it’s not axiomatic that we would automatically vote the same way”.

Adam Forrest16 October 2019 09:44

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