Brexit deal still possible, but hard: Barnier

Brexit deal still possible, but hard: Barnier

Mr Benn said he would take that as confirmation the Prime Minister will send a letter requiring an extension.

"The prime minister gave an update to cabinet on the progress in the ongoing Brexit talks, he said there was a chance of securing a good deal but we are not there yet, and there remain outstanding issues", the spokesman said.

He said he had spoken to Johnson earlier in the day. Both sides voiced cautious optimism that an outline agreement could be reached this week, but officials admitted time is tight.

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will write a letter to the European Union, asking for a delay to Brexit beyond October if there is no exit deal approved by the United Kingdom parliament by Saturday.

A British government audit, published Wednesday, added weight to fears of a economic breakdown in the event of a "no deal" exit, forecasting a 45-65 percent cut in cross-Channel trade for up to a year.

"I can confirm, as the prime minister has repeatedly set out, that ... the government will comply with the law", Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told British lawmakers on Wednesday.

"October 31 is still a few weeks away and there is the possibility of an additional summit before that if we need one ... We think the best way of doing that is with a deal, to leave in a smooth and orderly way".

"That is why the team are, as we speak, involved in intensive negotiations to do that".

But officials had to iron out details on how British-ruled Northern Ireland would remain under the European VAT regime.

But he warned there are still numerous hurdles in the way, after speaking with Mr Johnson and the European Commission on Wednesday morning.

An EU official said "one of the major outstanding issues" was agreeing on Britain's application of common bloc rules and standards created to ensure fair competition.

European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a legal text must be on the table by Wednesday morning at the latest if it is to be signed off by leaders at the European Union summit starting Thursday, in time for a special sitting of the British parliament on Saturday.

Mr Barnier also told European Union ministers that Customs arrangements for the island of Ireland, the issue of giving more say to the Northern Irish authorities as well as the so-called level-playing field clauses were all still open in the talks. But Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, the party that props up Johnson's minority government, strongly opposes any measures that could loosen the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Nevertheless, Barnier and Barclay judged that a deal was close enough to justify officials working into the early hours of Wednesday. Tariffs would apply on goods crossing from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland if they were deemed to be headed further, to Ireland and the bloc's single market.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined why European Union officials are driving a hard bargain and hoping Britain will commit to a "level playing field" in post-Brexit trade and commerce.

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