The Latest: EU says Brexit negotiations plowing on
BRUSSELS (AP) — The Latest on Brexit (all times local):
The European Union says Brexit negotiations are plowing on after intense talks in recent days, as EU leaders converge on Brussels for a key summit aimed at sealing a new divorce agreement.
European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva tweeted Thursday that “contacts between EU and U.K. teams are continuing.”
She says European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has just spoken to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as both sides strive to finalize a new divorce deal within hours.
Andreeva says that “every hour and minute counts” prior to the summit, set to start at around 1300 GMT (9 a.m. EDT), and is underlining that “we want a deal.
The U.K. is currently due to leave the EU on Oct. 31.
A British government minister says negotiations will continue to hammer out a Brexit deal after a key ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, said it can’t support the current draft.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC: “We’re working very intensively… to try and secure a deal.”
Jenrick says the government wants to provide “sufficient comfort for the DUP and unionists in Northern Ireland to feel that the arrangements we would put in place with this deal are sufficient to give them comfort to support it.”
He says Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his team will keep negotiating “with all parties, including with the DUP.”
Johnson is scheduled to travel to Brussels later Thursday for a European Union summit at which leaders hope to approve a Brexit deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that an agreement on Brexit is still possible, but that it hasn’t yet been reached.
Merkel said Thursday in parliament that “we’re on a better path than before, but we have not yet reached the goal.”
Merkel gave a speech in Germany’s Reichstag before traveling to Brussels to attend a European Union summit on Brexit.
She stressed that an “agreement is still possible,” which is, “why we need to continue to do everything to bring the negotiations to a successful end.”
The leaders of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s key Northern Ireland ally say they can’t support the draft Brexit deal struck between the government and the European Union.
Support from the Democratic Unionist Party is key to Johnson’s plan to get an agreement approved by parliament. But DUP leader Arlen Foster and the party’s parliamentary chief Nigel Dodds say they “could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues.”
Those arrangements are key to guaranteeing an open border between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland — the main obstacle to a Brexit deal.
Without the DUP’s support, any deal is unlikely to be ratified by the U.K. Parliament.
Foster and Dodds said they would continue to work with the U.K. government to get a “sensible” deal.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his 27 counterparts from across the European Union are converging on Brussels for a summit they hope will finally lay to rest the acrimony and frustration of a three-year divorce fight.
Yet high anxiety still reigned on Thursday morning with the last outstanding issues of the divorce papers still unclear and Johnson uncertain whether his allies at home will back the compromises he needs to make a deal.
Technical negotiators again went into the night Wednesday to fine tune customs and VAT regulations that will have to regulate trade in goods between the Northern Ireland and Ireland, where the UK and the EU share their only land border.
The summit starts midafternoon and is slated to end some 24 hours later.