Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar 'see pathway' to Brexit deal after talks

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have said they can "see a pathway" to a possible Brexit deal.

Following more than two hours of talks at a country manor on the Wirral, the two leaders said they believed a deal was "in everybody's interests".

In a joint statement, they said they would now "reflect further" on their discussions while their officials would continue to "engage intensively".

"Both continue to believe a deal is in everybody's interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal," the statement said.

"They agreed to reflect further on their discussions and that officials would continue to engage intensively on them."

The statement said Mr Varadkar will now consult with Brussels while Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will meet the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday.

The Taoiseach acknowledged ahead of the discussion that it will be “very difficult” to secure a deal by next week.

Mr Johnson wants to keep Northern Ireland more closely aligned with the EU than the rest of the UK on rules on goods and agriculture but remove it from the current customs union.

But Mr Varadkar is opposed to the Republic being in a different customs union from the north.

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(PA Graphics)

On Wednesday, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there was still no basis for a fresh agreement on the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc.

He said they had yet to see any “operational, legally binding solution” to the issue of the backstop ahead of next week’s European Council meeting.

Mr Johnson’s “two borders” proposals, he said, were based on a system “that hasn’t been properly developed, that hasn’t been tested”.

The downbeat assessment from Mr Barnier was echoed by the Taoiseach, who said the PM was installing an obstacle to progress by insisting that Northern Ireland must leave the customs union with the rest of the UK.

“That’s their position at the moment and that’s one that is a great difficulty for us,” Mr Varadkar told the Irish parliament on Wednesday.

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