Brexit talks could continue overnight as hopes raised of deal on Irish border
European Council president Donald Tusk will make a statement on Brexit early on Friday morning.
Theresa May is engaged in a flurry of diplomacy which could continue through the night and has fuelled speculation that a Brexit agreement on plans to maintain a soft Irish border could be edging closer.
The announcement that European Council president Donald Tusk will make a statement on Brexit early on Friday morning added to talk that the Prime Minister had made progress.
Under-pressure Mrs May had been hoping to make a new offer by Friday on the Irish border to satisfy both Dublin and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her Government.
A mooted agreement between the UK and EU on divorce issues including the Irish border, which would allow talks to progress to the future trade relationship, was torpedoed on Monday by the DUP.
On Thursday evening, Mrs May spoke to European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker, after he had phoned Irish PM Leo Varadkar.
Mr Juncker’s chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said after the calls that an early morning meeting and “press point” on Friday was “possible”, but added: “We are making progress but not yet fully there. Talks are continuing throughout the night.”
Downing Street did not comment on suggestions that Mrs May could fly to Brussels very early on Friday to seal a deal.
Confirming the PM’s calls, a Number 10 spokesman said: “Discussions about taking forward the Brexit process are ongoing.”
And earlier on Thursday evening, a UK Government source said: “We’re not there yet.”
DUP sources urged caution, insisting talks were continuing and stressing suggestions that a text had been signed off by MPs but not the leader Arlene Foster were not fully accurate.
A spokeswoman for Mr Tusk confirmed he would make a statement at 7.50am Brussels time (6.50am UK time) – before the London Stock Exchange opens – but would not give further details.
The DUP objected to plans for “regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the Republic to maintain a soft border between the two, arguing it would amount to the drawing of a new frontier with the UK mainland in the Irish Sea.
The Prime Minister is under intense pressure to get leaders at the December 14 European Council summit to declare “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues so trade talks can begin.
On Thursday evening, an Irish Government spokesman said: “Matters are being considered as part of ongoing discussions involving the (EU negotiating) Task Force, the Irish Government and the British Government.”
But he did not specifically confirm whether or not a new form of text had been tabled by UK negotiators.
DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Discussions are ongoing.”