Michel Barnier ‘still not sure’ no-deal Brexit can be avoided

EU chief Brexit negotiator says deal is 90% complete but could still fail at late stage

Jon Stone
Saturday 20 October 2018 00:35
Michel Barnier ‘still not sure’ no-deal Brexit can be avoided

A Brexit deal is 90 per cent complete but could still be sunk by the Irish border issue at this late stage, the EU’s chief negotiator has warned.

Speaking after a summit in Brussels where EU leaders discussed progress in talks, Michel Barnier said he was “still not sure we’ll get” a withdrawal agreement.

EU leaders treated Theresa May delicately at the meeting in a bid to avoid a repeat of a previous summit in Salzburg, with most offering encouraging words and suggesting a damaging no-deal could be avoided.

But there was little in the way of concrete progress, and leaders agreed to shelve a planned November summit where a Brexit deal was supposed to be finalised – stating that “decisive progress” had not been made in time.

“Ninety percent of the accord on the table has been agreed with Britain,” Mr Barnier told French broadcaster Inter radio.

“I’m convinced a deal is necessary, I’m still not sure we’ll get one.”

The chief negotiator had said earlier in the week that he needed “much more time” to strike an agreement, which has been stalled on the Irish border issue for months and finally collapse on Sunday.

The Prime Minister is now attending a second meeting with EU leaders in Brussels, where she is meting with the leaders of Asian countries and talking trade.

Theresa May admits longer Brexit transition period being considered

The PM met with Chinese premier Li Keqiang, who said China wanted to usher in a “diamond era” of relations between Britain and his country. She also held bilateral meetings with the leaders of Singapore and Korea.

The EU and Singapore are set to sign a trade deal that will reduce barriers between the two countries. Britain would have to replicate that deal if it wants to benefit from it once it leaves – a process that has so far not been straightforward.

This week’s European Council meeting’s Brexit aspects were dominated by speculation about whether or not the Brexit transition period might be extended – suggestion that infuriated Brexiteers.

The Prime Minister yesterday confirmed that the Government wanted to keep the option open for an extension, but said one was not being sought now.

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