UK negotiators are poised to table new proposals in a last-ditch bid to secure a Brexit deal.
According to Irish broadcaster RTE, the latest set of proposals – which are being put forward after the supposed deadline for a deal has passed – follow a 90 minute meeting between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and DUP leader Arlene Foster, and deputy leader Nigel Dodds in Downing Street last night.
The exact nature of the proposals is not yet clear.
However Johnson has scrapped his usual Tuesday Cabinet, in an effort to avoid leaks, it is understood.
Johnson’s chief sherpa David Frost and a team of 15 UK negotiators have been working throughout the weekend in Brussels in the hope of securing a deal ahead of Thursday’s European Council.
City AM understands that talks took place until 11pm last night, with new texts being shared repeatedly. One Number 10 source played down the significance of this latest set of proposals, saying it was “nothing to get excited about”.
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier this morning said that reaching a fresh Brexit deal “will be difficult” but that it “is still possible this week”.
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, who is in Luxembourg for the EU general affairs council, echoed those comments. He told reporters: “We need to give [the negotiators] space to proceed, but detailed conversations are under way and a deal is still very possible.”
However, it is largely expected that the time will run out before the deadlock is broken, meaning an extension to Article 50 is looking increasingly likely, despite Johnson’s repeated promise to leave the European Union on 31 October “come what may”.
Last month City AM revealed that the government was planning to circumvent the Benn Act, which stipulates that the Prime Minister must seek an extension if no deal is agreed by 19 October – this Saturday – by invoking EU law. It is thought lawyers will point to the supremacy of European law, under which Article 50 is enshrined, over British law.
That has subsequently been hinted at by both foreign secretary Dominic Raab and leader of the house Jacob Rees-Mogg.
However, sources have indicated that this will be more as a demonstration of intent than any real efficacy.
One source said the Prime Minister would be metaphorically willing to “be taken from Downing Street in handcuffs” to prove his commitment to the electorate, ahead of a General Election, which is likely to be run as a proxy for a second referendum.
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