Brexit secretary returns to Brussels after ‘promising’ UK-Ireland talks



Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is to meet the EU’s chief negotiator later – after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart agreed they could “see a pathway to a possible deal”.

The PM and Leo Varadkar held “detailed and constructive” talks for over two hours on Thursday at a country manor.

Mr Varadkar said the “very positive” meeting in north-west England meant negotiations could resume in Brussels.

Mr Barclay and Michel Barnier will hold talks there later this morning.

It comes ahead of a crunch summit of EU leaders on 17 and 18 October, which is seen as the last chance for the UK and the EU to agree a deal ahead of 31 October Brexit deadline.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith told BBC NI’s The View he was “delighted to see the positivity that came out of the meeting” between Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar.

He added: “We do need to compromise, we do need to focus on coming together and having an accommodation.”

Mr Varadkar had earlier refused to be drawn on what “concessions” had been made by either side.

Downing Street has not commented on Irish press reports suggesting “significant movement” has been made by Mr Johnson.

Former Conservative chancellor Lord Norman Lamont, a Brexiteer, said he was not “worried” about the prospect of concessions from the UK government, but wanted to know what they were.

A day after EU leaders accused the UK of proposing untested ideas, Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar met for talks that included a one-to-one discussion during a walk in the grounds of Thornton Manor.

Afterwards, Mr Varadkar told reporters the talks were at a “very sensitive stage” but were “very positive and very promising”.

The Taoiseach said he was now “convinced” the UK wanted an agreement, adding: “I do see a pathway towards an agreement in the coming weeks.”

However, there were, he said, still issues over “consent and democracy” and ensuring there is no customs border.

Downing Street also said the talks concentrated on “the challenges of customs and consent”.

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