EU still seeks more concessions from Britain in Brexit deal
LONDON/BRUSSELS : A deal to smooth Britain's departure from the European Union hung in the balance yesterday after diplomats indicated the bloc wanted more concessions from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and said a full agreement was unlikely this week.
Mr Johnson and EU leaders face a tumultuous week of reckoning that could decide whether the divorce is orderly, acrimonious or delayed yet again.
Mr Johnson says he wants to strike an exit deal at an EU summit on Thursday and Friday to allow an orderly departure on Oct 31. But if an agreement is not possible he will lead Britain out of the club it joined in 1973 without a deal - even though Parliament has passed a law saying he cannot do so.
EU politicians such as Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said a deal was possible and more work was needed.
But EU diplomats were pessimistic about the chances of Mr Johnson's hybrid customs proposal for the Irish border riddle.
After more than three years of Brexit crisis and tortuous negotiations that have claimed the scalps of two British prime ministers, Mr Johnson will have to ratify any last-minute deal in parliament, which will sit in an extraordinary session on Saturday.
As EU ministers met in Luxembourg yesterday, Mr Johnson's planned legislative agenda was read out by Queen Elizabeth at the state opening of Parliament.
"My government's priority has always been to secure the United Kingdom's departure from the EU on Oct 31," she said.
The main sticking point remains the border between EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland: how to prevent it becoming a backdoor into the EU after Brexit without erecting controls that could undermine the 1998 peace agreement that largely ended three decades of sectarian violence.- REUTERS