Brexit Talks Don't See Breakthrough 10/16 06:15
BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union and British negotiators failed to reach a
breakthrough in Brexit talks during a frantic all-night session and will
continue seeking a compromise on the eve of Thursday's crucial EU summit.
An EU official, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations were
still ongoing, said Wednesday that "discussions continued until late in the
night and will continue today."
Both sides were hoping that after more than three years of false starts and
sudden reversals, a clean divorce deal for Britain leaving the bloc might be
sketched out within the coming hours.
Even though many questions remain, diplomats made it clear that both sides
were within touching distance of a deal for the first time since a U.K.
withdrawal plan fell apart in the British House of Commons in March.
But talks saw no deal materializing between experts from both sides holed up
late into the night at EU headquarters in Brussels.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office said the negotiations had been
"constructive" and would continue.
Johnson is eager to strike a deal at an EU summit starting Thursday that
will allow for the U.K. to leave the bloc in good order on the scheduled date
of Oct. 31, fulfilling his promise to get Brexit done, come what may.
But both sides say gaps remain over plans for keeping goods and people
flowing freely across the Irish border, the thorniest issue in the talks.
An open border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland
underpins both the local economy and the 1998 peace accord that ended decades
of Catholic-Protestant violence in Northern Ireland. But once Britain exits,
that border will turn into an external EU frontier that the bloc wants to keep
The big question is how far Johnson's government is prepared to budge on its
insistence that the U.K., including Northern Ireland, must leave the European
Union's customs union --- something that would require checks on goods passing
between the U.K. and the EU, including on the island of Ireland. Ireland and
other EU members say any checks in Ireland are unacceptable.
The alternative is to have checks between Britain and Northern Ireland. But
Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, the party that props up Johnson's
minority government, strongly opposes any measures that could loosen the bonds
between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
Even if there is a deal, it must be passed by both European lawmakers and
Britain's Parliament, which rejected --- three times --- the agreement struck
by his predecessor, Theresa May.
Pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker David Davis said success rests on the
stance of the DUP.
He said that "if the DUP says 'this is intolerable to us' that will be quite
This week's EU leaders' meeting --- the last scheduled summit before the
Brexit deadline --- was long considered the last opportunity to approve a
divorce agreement. Johnson insists his country will leave at the end of the
month with or without an agreement, although U.K. lawmakers are determined to
push for another delay rather than risk a chaotic no-deal Brexit.
They have passed a law that compels the government to ask the EU to postpone
Brexit if there is no deal in place by Saturday.
Johnson insists he won't do that --- but also says he will obey the law.
It's unclear how the two statements can be reconciled.