Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson 'can see pathway' to Brexit deal

Leo Varadkar and Boris Johnson had private talks today in a bid to break the Brexit deadline
Gavin Cordon, PA Whitehall Editor

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have said they can "see a pathway" to a possible Brexit deal.

Following more than two hours of talks at a country manor on the Wirral today, the two leaders said they believed a deal was "in everybody's interests".

In a joint statement, they said they would now "reflect further" on their discussions while their officials would continue to "engage intensively".

"Both continue to believe a deal is in everybody's interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal," the statement said.

"They agreed to reflect further on their discussions and that officials would continue to engage intensively on them."

The meeting at the 19th century Thornton Manor was seen as a last chance for Mr Johnson to save his hopes of getting agreement on a Brexit deal ahead of next week's crucial EU summit.

In their statement, the two leaders said their discussions had concentrated on the "challenges" of future customs arrangements and "consent" in Mr Johnson's Brexit blueprint.

The Irish and other EU governments have objected to proposals to take Northern Ireland out of the EU customs union - along with the rest of the UK - meaning the return of customs checks on the island of Ireland.

They have also voiced strong concern about proposals in the plan for the new arrangements to require the consent of the Stormont Assembly, effectively handing a veto to the DUP.

The statement said Mr Varadkar will now consult with Brussels while Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will meet the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday.

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