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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 
secure.

   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 
important."

   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.


(KR)

 
 
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