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A Brexit deal in November is less likely with every day that passes, says Taoiseach

An EU summit is scheduled for the 13th and 14th of December.

Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipila, right, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attend a press conference at the Prime Minister's official residence Kesaranta in Helsinki, Finland.
Finland's Prime Minister Juha Sipila, right, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attend a press conference at the Prime Minister's official residence Kesaranta in Helsinki, Finland.
Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto

A BREXIT DEAL in November is looking more and more unlikely, according to the Taoiseach today. 

Speaking during his visit to Finland, Leo Varadkar said while he still thinks a deal might be able to be reached in November, with “every day that passes” it is becoming more unlikely. 

He reiterated the point he made in the Dáil yesterday that the a backstop must be contained in the withdrawal agreement in order to ensure the that a hard border does not re-emerge. 

Varadkar said a EU summit is penciled in December, but said it would not be good for negotiations to drag on.

“We do have one scheduled anyway for the 13th and 14th of December, so not getting it done in November doesn’t mean we can’t get it done in the first two weeks of December,” he added.

“But I think beyond that you’re into the new year which I think wouldn’t be a good thing.”

EU officials poured cold water on hopes of holding a special summit this month to seal a Brexit divorce, saying talks have made some progress — but not enough.

“Clear that more work is needed in Brexit negotiations. We remain determined to reach a deal,” the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier tweeted from Helsinki after meeting Finnish officials.

One source close to the negotiations with London told AFP: “I think the summit will be in December. For the time being not enough progress on Irish border question to have a summit in November.”

Another official would not categorically rule out a November summit, but admitted that even if there was an unexpected breakthrough in the coming days it could take up to two weeks to prepare one.

EU President Donald Tusk held a call with British Prime Minister Theresa May today, but there was no breakthrough and the official said “member states will need time” to digest any draft deal.

Britain is due to leave the 28-nation bloc on March 29 next year, but details of the withdrawal treaty have yet to be agreed and previous summits have broken up, sometimes in bitter rows.

Both sides say they want to avoid the emergence of a hard border that could undermine the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement — but London does not want the province to remain in the EU Customs Union indefinitely.

May has said no British prime minister could agree to such a concession, but negotiators are reported to be working on language for a “review mechanism” that would govern the backstop.  

Barnier has made it clear any talk on Britain’s future relations with the union must wait until the withdrawal deal is enshrined in a legal treaty.

And Tusk has said he would not call the summit that would approve such a treaty until Barnier had been able to report to him that “decisive progress” had been made towards agreement.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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