Wednesday 19 December 2018

Juncker confident of Brexit deal 'within weeks'

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

John Downing and Ralph Riegel

Hopes of a Brexit deal within weeks have been renewed with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker signalling a new note of confidence in negotiations.

Officials in Brussels expect a fresh proposal from Britain on the Irish Border after an earlier London paper was rejected by EU leaders.

Mr Juncker said his main focus was on securing a deal which was possible within the outer deadline of a special EU leaders' summit on November 17 and 18.

"Negotiations are not easy because we also have to be critical that we receive different signals from London," Mr Juncker told the Austrian parliament in Vienna.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has also said that a catastrophic "no-deal crashout" by the UK next March was not now likely and compromise can be achieved.

But he again warned that Dublin would not sign any UK Brexit deal that did not respect the Good Friday Agreement and guarantee no "hard Border" in Ireland.

Mr Coveney said it was critical that both the EU and UK negotiators be effectively "locked into a room for the next 10 days" until an acceptable deal is hammered out.

In Brussels, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier stressed the need for a deal on the Border which did not disrupt the EU single market.

He is due to meet senior figures from the Democratic Unionist Party on Tuesday.

The DUP is propping up British Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government and oppose Mr Barnier's proposal for a so-called "backstop" to apply EU rules to Northern Ireland, but not to England, Scotland and Wales.

Irish Independent

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Also in Business