Brexit: EU, UK get go-ahead to intensify talks

10 2019 Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in Downing Street in London. Hammond who stepped down as Treasury chief before Boris Johnson became prime minister has broken his silence

Philip Hammond’s alternative Brexit plan is another variation on ‘Common Market 2.0’ and just as unappealing

A diplomat and an European Union official said European Union negotiator Michel Barnier had told member states that Britain had changed its position and now accepted that its proposed replacement of the so-called "backstop" can not involve a customs border between European Union member Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier is now meeting with Britain's Brexit minister Stephen Barclay in Brussels. And if the path is to lead to a deal before Britain crashes out of the European Union on October 31, it had better be a short one.

The challenge of keeping this border invisible - something that has underpinned both the local economy and the region's peace deal - has dominated Brexit discussions for three years, ever since the United Kingdom voted in 2016 to leave the EU.

Mr Burleigh's initial claim that Barnier has been given the "green light" for such talks now seems uncertain, however, with a number of other reporters inflicting an abundance of mixed metaphors on observers by suggesting that the governments of the EU27 will not enter a "tunnel" with the British without being able to see a "landing zone" at the end of it.

"We are working towards a deal", said Mina Andreeva, spokeswoman for the European Commission. "After that, it's a long road".

"The UK has still not come forward with a workable, realistic proposal", said European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday, though he added that he had received "promising signals" from Varadkar. But he cautioned there could still be obstacles along the way, after a more than three-year game of high-stakes political snakes and ladders. Johnson has vowed Britain will end its five-decade membership of the European Union on October 31, with or without agreeing exit terms.

Details of the latest ideas being considered by London and Brussels haven't yet been clarified.

It noted that any deal must contain a "legally operative solution" that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland while protecting the island's economy, the Good Friday peace accord and the EU's single market. They said the two sides will intensify talks to that aim. After British MPs rejected a "backstop" plan in a previous withdrawal agreement to keep the border open, Johnson presented a new proposal last week.

He proposes Northern Ireland stay aligned to the EU's single market but remain in a separate UK-wide customs territory, envisaging customs but no regulatory checks on the frontier.

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