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No Brexit deal without a border backstop: Barnier

By Harriet Line

A Brexit deal must be signed by "November at the latest", the EU's chief negotiator has warned.

Michel Barnier said in Brussels there will be no agreement unless an operational "backstop" arrangement for the Irish border can be agreed.

But he said was "determined" to reach an agreement ahead of the October deadline, though he said there would be "flexibility" for further negotiations.

Standing alongside Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, he said: "Week after week and step by step we are eliminating subjects, bones of contention... I'm determined, we're going to find an agreement for an orderly withdrawal which is much better than the opposite, and Dominic and I think it's possible to reach that in October."

Mr Barnier added: "If you take account of the date chosen by the United Kingdom to leave, that's March 29 which is in UK law and you simply count backwards the time that you need for ratification about three months here or there then it takes you to November at the latest. It's as simple as that."

It follows concerns that a deal may fail to be reached before the deadline.

Mr Raab said that he wanted to continue "accelerating and intensifying" talks, adding: "We're committed to resolving the deal by (October) and ultimately on my side I am stubbornly optimistic a deal is within our reach."

Earlier, Mr Barnier said a backstop is "essential to conclude the negotiations", stating: "With no backstop there will be no agreement."

He described the issue as a "matter of some urgency", adding that he had asked the Brexit Secretary to provide data on how the "necessary controls and checks take place".

The Prime Minister has said she will refuse to contemplate any backstop deal that treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK.

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