In Brief

Brexit breakthrough? Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar raise expectations

Renewed hope as leaders say they may yet be able to agree a deal on the Irish backstop

Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar said yesterday they can “see a pathway to a possible deal”. 

After the two men spoke for more than two hours, the Irish Taoiseach said the “positive” meeting was “sufficient to allow negotiations to resume in Brussels”. He added that he was “convinced” the UK wanted an agreement and that he could “see a pathway towards an agreement in the coming weeks”.

A joint statement reported that the two leaders had a “detailed and constructive discussion”.

It continued: “Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybody’s interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal.”

The news has prompted a wave of optimism as the 31 October Brexit deadline looms. “Irish eyes are smiling,” says Metro, with the Daily Express asking: “Has Boris only gone and done it?” The Times says the Irish leader produced an “unexpectedly upbeat assessment”.

There is caution too, however. “It would be an epic assumption tonight to conclude that a deal will happen,” according to the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg, who said a source had told her: “no one's cracking open the champagne… don't even pour a pint of warm Guinness.”

Nevertheless, the mood has shifted palpably before Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay’s meeting with the EU's Michel Barnier today. 

After a previous conversation, Varadkar had said “big gaps” remained between the UK and the EU, and just days ago Downing Street said a deal was “essentially impossible”.

Last night Varadkar said issues remain over the Irish backstop, including customs as well as systems of “consent and democracy” in approving the deal. The Irish Times says that there has been “significant movement” from the British side on customs, which could mean a revival of the backstop or a customs border in the Irish sea.

The pound soared after Varadkar’s remarks, rising by about 2 cents against the dollar and the euro to the highest levels in a week, coming close to $1.24 and €1.13 on the foreign exchanges.

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