Brexit: negotiations thaw, but no sign of agreement on "Irish backstop" in sight

Boris Johnson believes that a Brexit deal with the European Union could be reached at a summit next month, but  Ireland says the sides are far from agreement and London had not yet made "serious proposals". 

Hopes of a breakthrough over the terms of Brexit have been raised in recent days by Johnson saying that the shape of a deal is emerging and European Commission President Juncker saying agreement is possible. 

But diplomats say the two sides are split over London’s desire to remove the Irish border “backstop” from the divorce deal struck by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, and then work out a replacement in coming years. 

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The backstop is an insurance policy to keep the 500-km (300-mile) border between Ireland, which will remain in the EU, and the British province of Northern Ireland open after Brexit. 

“We both want to see a deal,” British Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said after talks in Brussels with EU negotiator Michel Barnier. “The meeting overran, which signals we were getting into the detail.” 

“There is a still a lot of work to do but there is a common purpose to secure a deal,” Barclay said, adding that Juncker and Johnson also both wanted a deal. 

Leaving the EU would be Britain’s biggest shift in trade and foreign policy for more than 40 years and deprive the 28-nation bloc of one of its biggest economies. The EU has set a deadline for a deal to be reached by October 31st, and Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the bloc on that date, with or without a deal. 

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