Johnson is racing against time to complete the Brexit deal

UNITED KINGDOM (OBSERVATORY) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to give a briefing to his ministers on the progress made in London’s last-minute efforts to conclude a new Brexit deal with the European Union.

File AFP

Negotiators held intense and closed-door talks in Brussels after Johnson offered a new package of secession terms to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday. But time is running out.

EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels on Thursday and Friday for a summit under pressure from the Brexit deadline of 31 October.

The bloc’s leaders prefer to have a full proposal for a vote at the summit.

But the two sides are trying in days to achieve what they have failed to achieve over three years since the British voted in favor of withdrawal from the European Union after membership lasted nearly 50 years.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to discuss options with French President Emmanuel Macron late Sunday while Johnson will brief his cabinet members for lunch.

EU officials said the chief EU negotiator on the Brexit dossier, Michel Barnier, would brief EU ambassadors on the latest developments related to the dossier on Sunday evening.

Some leaked details indicated a settlement on the controversial Irish border issue, which keeps Britain’s Northern Ireland partly tied to EU customs rules.

It will be clear in the coming days whether Brussels and the hard-line Brexit supporters in parliament who will have to approve the deal will accept the compromise.

Johnson came to power in July thanks to his pledge not to delay Brexit a third time, albeit for a few weeks.

Failure to honor this pledge would affect it in early general elections, which many expect to take place in the coming months.

“The completion of Brexit by October 31 is absolutely essential,” Johnson said in a statement on Sunday.

– Parliamentary pressure –

Faradkar hinted on Thursday that he could support the continuation of the talks until an October 31 deadline if an agreement seems possible.

But Britain will only avoid a messy separation from its closest trading partners if the deal is approved by parliament in London as well, which has not been possible three times so far.

Johnson heads a minority government and must rely on the full support of not only his disagreeable Conservative party members, but also from Northern Ireland’s small DUP.

The head of the Northern Ireland Unionist Party parliamentary bloc, Prime Minister Nigel Dodds, warned that “Northern Ireland must remain fully within the British Customs Union” and not European.

“Boris Johnson knows this very well,” he told La Repubblica.

But his comments do not necessarily mean the party will not support the deal.

Johnson’s compromise is presented by the British media as a “double customs” plan.

But details are still under discussion as Prime Minister’s allies called on lawmakers to give Johnson a chance.

In this context, government representative in parliament Jacob Rees-Moog – a leading member of the anti-EU Conservative lobby – insisted that Johnson had the qualifications to succeed.

“I think he is someone who even the strongest skeptics in the European Union and even the members of the Brexit party can trust,” he told Sky News.

Opposition Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbin said on Sunday he would wait for the outcome of the EU summit before trying to press for early elections.

“We will consider any agreement that comes before we launch elections,” Corbin told Sky News.

Parliament has forced Johnson to seek Brexit’s delay if no agreement is reached by Saturday.

He has vowed to comply with the law and nonetheless expel Britain from the EU by October 31, in contradiction that could end up being settled in court.


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