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Brexit deal ‘possible this week’ says EU’s Barnier, Germany’s Roth not so sure

Brexit deal ‘possible this week’ says EU’s Barnier, Germany’s Roth not so sure
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator has called on London to “turn good intentions into a legal text,” while expressing optimism that a deal can be agreed by the end of the week. Some of his European colleagues aren’t as convinced.

“Even if an agreement has been difficult, more and more difficult, it’s still possible this week,” Michel Barnier said on Tuesday. 

“Reaching an agreement is still possible. Obviously, any agreement must work for all. The whole of the UK and the whole of the EU.”

Irish state broadcaster RTE has reported that the UK will bring fresh proposals to the table later on Tuesday in a bid to break the deadlock over the intractable Northern Irish backstop issue, which has held up negotiations for months.

The news follows a meeting between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster on Monday night. It remains unclear whether the “fresh” proposals are just a rewording of the dual customs scheme suggested last week following a meeting between Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar. 

Such a scheme would see Northern Ireland remain in the UK’s customs territory while operating under EU rules and procedures on tariffs. 

Pouring cold water on any rumors that the end may finally be nigh for Brexit talks, however, Germany’s EU Minister Michael Roth reiterated his assessment that a no-deal Brexit would be a “disaster,” while also playing down any optimism about reaching a deal with the UK negotiators in such a short timeframe. 

“I’m not quite sure if a deal is close,” he said. 

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France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs Amelie de Montchalin said that while her government hoped for a possible Brexit deal, she is remaining realistic, emphasizing the need for a balanced deal and even hinting that she is open to another extension of the divorce deal deadline. 

“Time alone is not a solution. However, if a significant political change takes place in the UK then that could potentially justify a discussion on an extension if we were asked for it,” she told reporters in Luxembourg.

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