A Brexit deal could be secured within two weeks, the Irish prime minister has said, as negotiations over the backstop agreement intensify in the run-up to crucial European Council summit later this month.

EU negotiators echoed these same sentiments at a behind-closed-doors meeting to diplomats in Brussels last night, according to Reuters. It comes hours after Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar raised hope of a breakthrough in the next fortnight – ahead of a crunch Brussels summit on October 17th.

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, said he wants to “get down to business” and resolve the Irish border impasse that has so far prevented Britain and the EU negotiators from reaching a final deal.

Speaking in Brussels on Thursday, Mr Varadkar said that he was “very keen” to see a deal reached by November, providing it works in the interests of all parties.

Leo Varadkar (right) raised hope of a breakthrough in the next fortnight – just as Donald Tusk (left) threw a spanner in the works (Image: REX/Shutterstock)

He said “I think we are entering a critical and decisive stage of these negotiations and there is a good opportunity to clinch a deal over the next couple of weeks,”

But Mr Varadkar warned it could take longer than the transition period to December 2020 to agree a final EU-UK trade deal. Today the Irish Government urged Mrs May to bring forward her proposals to break the deadlock over the Northern Ireland border.

This comes just hours after European Council President Donald Tusk threw a spanner in the works by appearing to back a Brexiteers’ ‘Canada Plus’ plan – that critics say would not solve the border puzzle.Meanwhile the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier meets the main parties in Northern Ireland in Brussels today in a bid to break a deadlock over the Northern Irish border.

What Is The Irish Border Issue?

There are two different but related elements to the deadlock in Brexit negotiations over the Irish border: the “backstop”, which is an insurance policy that Ireland wants to ensure the border remains completely open to trade, people, and services in the event of no deal; and the second set of negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU and therefore Ireland.

Why Is There A Gridlock?

The UK and the EU agreed at the end of the first phase of Brexit negotiations in December that there would be regulatory alignment between both parts of the island of Ireland in the event of no deal. 

That same December deal was struck and then undone after objections by the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), which had not been consulted. To placate their concerns that Northern Ireland would, post-Brexit, be treated differently, Theresa May also agreed there would be “no regulatory barriers” in the Irish sea. This immediately sowed the seeds for an insoluble problem unless the UK struck a deal which involved remaining in the single market and the customs union, both red lines for the prime minister.

What is the EU’s position?

The EU has proposed legal text that establishes “a common regulatory area” between Ireland and the UK in Northern Ireland, in other words a special deal for Northern Ireland.

What About The UK? 

Theresa May is fully signed up to the need for a backstop and no infrastructure on the Irish border, but has pledged not to leave Northern Ireland in a different regulatory territory to Britain, something she says amounts to a physical border in the Irish sea which no Prime minister could accept.

Following the latest round of talks, the Irish Prime Minister revealed he was hopeful a deal on the Northern Ireland border can be done in two weeks.

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