The European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said in the early hours of Tuesday that a divorce deal with the United Kingdom is still possible this week but the British government needs to come forward with a legal text.
Ahead of a meeting with EU foreign ministers, Barnier said that the main challenge now is to turn British proposals on the complex issue of the borders on the islands of Ireland into something binding.
“I will debrief the EU 27 ministers as usual and just to tell them where we are, where we stand today,” Barnier told media in Luxembourg.
“Our team(s) are working hard, and work has just started now today, this work has been intense over the weekend and yesterday because even if the agreement will be difficult, more and more difficult, to be frank, it is still possible this week.
EU leaders will be meeting for a two-day summit in Brussels from Thursday. Brexit will top the agenda as the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline looms.
The stepped-up negotiations came after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar held a meeting last week, both sides dubbed “promising”.
On Sunday, Johnson, however, told his cabinet that while he could see a “pathway” to a deal, there was “still a significant amount of work” needed to get there.
The European Commission echoed the Prime Minister, saying: “A lot of work remains to be done.”
The President of the European Council Donald Tusk, who will host a summit next week had said that he would have pulled the plug on plans to discuss Brexit if there was no hope of progress.
Earlier this month, Johnson had submitted new proposals to the EU and its leaders promised to examine them carefully.