Prime Minister Johnson and President of Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar agree they can “see a pathway to a possible deal” after talks, Downing Street says.
In a statement met by optimism by some and scoffs by detractors, Downing Street revealed that the leaders spoke for over two hours, including a one-to-one discussion during a walk in the grounds of Thornton Manor in north-west England. The talks were “constructive” and they believe a deal “is in everybody’s interest”, the statement said.
The joint statement issued after the meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar said the prime minister and Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) said the parties involved had a “detailed and constructive discussion”.
“Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybody’s interest,” the statement said. The talks concentrated on “the challenges of customs and consent”, Downing Street said. “They agreed to reflect further on their discussions and that officials would continue to engage intensively on them.” Mr Johnson put forward fresh proposals for a Brexit deal last week, but Mr Varadkar had previously said “big gaps” remain between the UK and the EU.
Markets react positively
The markets reacted positively to this news. The pound which hadn’t been doing well since uncertainty engulfed the Brexit negotiations shot up higher than the dollar after the statement was issued. Sky’s economics editor Ed Conway tweeted
This news is welcome by businesses too. Just this week Nissan reported that a no-deal Brexit would jeopardize their entire European business model and have dramatic impacts on their Sunderland plant in their firmest warning about Brexit yet.
Gianluca de Ficchy, the chairman of Nissan Europe, said the imposition of a 10% tariff on exports under World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms would threaten the future of its large Sunderland plant.
“If we are in a situation in which tomorrow we have to apply 10% export duties to 70% of our sales, the entire business model for Nissan Europe will be in jeopardy,” he told the Guardian.
The Japanese carmaker, which supports 30,000 jobs in Britain, said it could not guarantee the new Qashqai model would come to Sunderland given the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
Nissan promised in 2016 to build the new version of the car in Sunderland after receiving assurances from Theresa May’s government that it would be protected from the impact of Brexit. The carmaker, which employs 6,000 people at Sunderland and supports another 24,000 jobs in the supply chain, has previously made only measured statements about the impact of the UK’s departure from the EU. This news will be reassuring for Nissan and many other businesses who face the most immediate threat from no-deal Brexit.
The boy who cried wolf
Because of the temperament and character of Prime Minister Johnson which the British public has become all too familiar with, some have scoffed at this news and still believe Johnson prefers a no-deal. He has reiterated this in the public space numerous times.
The key stumbling block so far to a deal for Ireland have been Johnson’s proposal to take Northern Ireland out of the EU customs union on Brexit day, and his plan to give the defunct Stormont assembly the final say on whether the region should also stay aligned to EU rules on goods and agrifood.
Earlier this week, Varadkar said he thought it would be “very difficult” to secure an agreement by the time EU leaders meet next Thursday, but all efforts were focused on doing so because the stakes were so high.
The statement issued doesn’t actually say much and cannot be taken as intent. The parties revealed that a ‘way could be seen’ which may result in a deal, however, this is no way a statement revelling a deal was imminent or even close.
Timeline: What’s happening ahead of Brexit deadline?
- Monday 14 October – The Commons is due to return, and the government will use the Queen’s Speech to set out its legislative agenda. The speech will then be debated by MPs throughout the week.
- Thursday 17 October – Crucial two-day summit of EU leaders begins in Brussels. This is the last such meeting currently scheduled before the Brexit deadline.
- Saturday 19 October – Special sitting of Parliament and the date by which the PM must ask the EU for another delay to Brexit under the Benn Act, if no Brexit deal has been approved by Parliament and they have not agreed to the UK leaving with no-deal.
- Thursday 31 October – Date by which the UK is due to leave the EU, with or without a withdrawal agreement.
We are awaiting a response from Labour about this statement.