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Boris Johnson heads for crunch EU summit as Brexit deal talks continue

UK News | Published:

Negotiations look set to go down to the wire.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson to attend EU summit (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Boris Johnson is heading to Brussels for a crunch EU summit on Thursday as he aims to draw a line under three years of talks and deliver a Brexit deal.

Negotiations before the summit of the 28 EU leaders took place on Wednesday as arrangements for the Irish border continue to prove troublesome.

The PM’s hopes of an end to the deal deadlock on Wednesday night were dashed as Tory allies the DUP appeared to dig in against elements of the proposed agreement.

The DUP is unhappy with the prospect of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, as well as issues of consent regarding the suspended Stormont assembly.

Another sticking point in the proposed agreement relating to customs and VAT.

Mr Johnson will be reliant upon his colleagues within the Conservative party and elsewhere on the green benches of the Commons to get any deal through Parliament as he does not hold a majority.

He needs to get an agreement approved at the summit if he is to avert a major political bust-up over asking Brussels to delay Brexit beyond the scheduled October 31 deadline.

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A compromise could see the leaders looking at a political agreement, rather than a legal text.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Tolga Akmen/PA)

However, the PM could take some comfort from the stance of arch-Brexiteer Conservative MP Steve Baker.

After a meeting in Downing Street, the chairman of the pro-Brexit European Research Group told Sky News: “We have made great progress in our discussions with Number 10.

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“We know there will be compromises, but we will be looking at this deal in minute detail, with a view to supporting it.

“But until we get that text, we can’t say.”

During a brief address to the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers on Wednesday, Mr Johnson compared the situation to climbing Mount Everest, according to MPs who attended.

Referring to the Prime Minister, leading Brexiteer Mark Francois said: “He said, ‘We are not quite at the summit, we are at the Hillary Step’.

“‘The summit is not far but at the moment there is still cloud around the summit.'”

Exiting the European Union Secretary Stephen Barclay (Victoria Jones/PA)

Earlier on Wednesday, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay confirmed that Mr Johnson will write a letter asking for an Article 50 extension if no deal is in place by Saturday, something the Prime Minister has repeatedly ruled out.

The PM has promised that Britain will quit the bloc on Halloween “do or die” and any extension would be the third after the EU pushed the Brexit date back twice from March 29 and June 30.

DUP leader Arlene Foster moved to reject a suggestion that her party had accepted the latest proposals in the deal regarding Northern Ireland consent issues.

She tweeted: “Discussions continue. Needs to be a sensible deal which unionists and nationalists can support.”

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