Big gaps remain in Brexit talks, Irish prime minister says

Daniel Fowler
October 9, 2019

THE IRISH GOVERNMENT has hit back at claims from Downing Street that it had sabotaged a potential Brexit deal. He said it was unacceptable for Northern Ireland to stay in the customs union and that Johnson had told Merkel that the United Kingdom had made a significant offer and that it was time for the EU compromise. The official claimed that as a outcome a deal looked "essentially impossible, not just now but ever".

A story emanating from the UK Times newspaper saying that the European Union is willing to offer the UK a time limited Northern Ireland Backstop to break the current Brexit stalemate.

However, Norbert Roettgen, a senior Merkel ally, said there was no new German position on Brexit.

The pound was down 0.5% at $1.2226.

Mr Johnson says he will obey the law but will not ask for a delay.

"Boris Johnson, what's at stake is not winning some stupid blame game", he wrote on Twitter.

"You don't want a deal, you don't want an extension, you don't want to revoke, quo vadis?" - a Latin phrase meaning "where are you going?"

Johnson told the German chancellor that this demand, along with the EU's unwillingness to engage with his new proposals, was essentially paving the way to a no-deal Brexit.

With efforts to get a deal by the end of the month on an apparent knife edge, Mr Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar have said they hope to meet later in the week.

The further spokesman rejected Mr Tusk's blunt accusation that Johnson was playing "some stupid blame game" by having his office leak the detail of private talks.

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"If his ideas are limited to what he presented to the negotiator (Michel) Barnier five days ago, it means that he doesn't actually want an agreement", Sassoli, an Italian, told reporters, speaking through a translator in London.

Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said he found it "hard to disagree" with Mr Tusk, stressing that Dublin would "not strike a deal at any cost".

An array of remarks by unidentified British sources laid bare just how far apart the two sides are after three years of tortuous haggling over the first departure of a sovereign state from the EU.

The comments contradicted Johnson's office, which said Tuesday that European Union intransigence had led to a breakdown in negotiations.

After presenting them, government sources hoped the sides might be able to enter an intense 10-day period of talks nearly immediately, but a number of senior European Union figures, including Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, warned they did not form the basis for deeper negotiations - even if they believed a deal could still be done.

A "range of dates" will now be in play at the meeting of European leaders next week but sources suggested the natural cut-off date would be June.

Johnson's spokesman said the British leader and Merkel had had a frank exchange and Britain had not seen any compromise from the EU.

But Ireland braced for the worst with a no-deal Brexit budget while Britain announced its no-deal tarrif plan and updated on it preparations for a no-deal exit - the nightmare scenario for many big businesses. Britain says it will try to keep goods flowing by not immediately imposing border checks on imports from the EU. He has also repeatedly demanded an election but parliament has refused to grant one.

The Spectator magazine quoted an unidentified source in Downing Street as saying that Britain would take an aggressive stance towards the European Union if Brexit talks break down, possibly even by withholding security cooperation.

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