European Union members give go-ahead for more intense Brexit talks

GBPEUR trend is lower

GBPEUR trend is lower

The two sides are tussling over the backstop agreement - an insurance policy championed by the EU to keep Northern Ireland in the bloc's customs union in order to prevent the creation of a physical border which could threaten peace on the island - which the United Kingdom argues is undemocratic.

Highlighting the upbeat mood, Johnson's Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, got a warm welcome from European Union negotiator Michel Barnier before they started nearly two hours of talks around breakfast.

Britain and Europe's top Brexit negotiators sat down together Friday to test what British and Irish leaders say might be a "pathway" to a deal.

After the Irish prime minister (or "taoiseach") Leo Varadkar suggested that a deal could still be done on-time following one-on-one talks with Prime Minister Johnson and a meeting between Barnier and Britain's Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, however, the word has gone out that "tunnel" negotiations may (or may not) be on the cards - although few reporters have elaborated on what this actually means.

Following the breakfast meeting, Barnier began a briefing with ambassadors from the other 27 European Union capitals, seeking their input on entering political negotiations on a text.

Education minister Gavin Williamson restated the government's line that Britain would leave the EU on October 31, come what may, telling ITV: "We need to see the European Union shift".

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France's European affairs minister, Amelie de Montchalin, said early Friday that a no-deal Brexit "is probable, at this stage".

The main sticking point in the divorce deal is how to keep open the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, a member of the EU.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put forward revised proposals for a deal 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.

A free-flowing border is considered vital to maintaining peace in Northern Ireland, which was plagued by three decades of violence over British rule, which was largely brought to an end with the 1998 Good Friday peace accords.

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