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09.00 15 Oct 2019


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The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney will brief Cabinet ministers on the latest Brexit updates on Tuesday morning, as efforts continue to reach a last minute deal.

Foreign affairs ministers from across Europe are meeting in Luxembourg again on Tuesday to pave the way for the bigger European Council meeting later this week.

With time running incredibly short ahead of Thursday's council of EU leaders in Brussels, hopes are fading that a deal will get done this week.

High-level negotiations have been ongoing since a breakthrough after Mr Varadkar's meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week.

Mr Varadkar plans to brief his ministers on that discussion this morning - but will also warn them there are still major hurdles to overcome.

He is expected to emphasize the scale of the challenge to re-draft a legally binding treaty and get agreement on that in the next two days.

EU foreign ministers will discuss the plans in Luxembourg - a meeting that usually paves the way for the EU Council meeting.

Speaking from Luxembourg on Monday, Mr Coveney said he is hopeful but not sure if a deal will get done.

"The negotiations this week have come from, I think, an agreement between the Taoiseach and the British prime minister last week that they could see a pathway to a possible deal.

"What this means is that they can see an approach here that they believe can work."

"I think there is good will and a political determination to get this done.

"But I think it's just too early to say, even though we're only a few days away from a summit, I still think it's too early to say whether it's possible to get a breakthrough this week - or whether it will move into next week".

There are still hopes of a last minute breakthrough, and certainly a lot more progress than there was this time last week.

But the thorny issue of managing customs after Brexit is unlikely to be untangled in the space of 48 hours.

Meanwhile, the EU's chief negotiator believes a deal is "still possible this week" as he returned to "intense" discussions.

Speaking on his arrival at a gathering of EU ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday morning, Michel Barnier told reporters: "Our team are working hard."

"This work has been intense all over the weekend and yesterday.

"Because, even if an agreement will be difficult - more and more difficult, to be frank - it is still possible this week."

Mr Barnier added: "Reaching an agreement is still possible. Obviously any agreement must work for everyone - the whole of the UK and the whole of the EU.

"It is high time to turn good intentions into a legal text."

If a legal text on a Brexit deal is agreed by negotiators this week, it could be signed off by EU leaders at a Brussels summit on Thursday and Friday.

Mr Barnier's assessment of the state of Brexit talks contrasted with the Finland Prime Minister Antti Rinne's view on Monday.

Mr Rinne, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, claimed "there is no time in a practical or legal way to find an agreement before the EU Council meeting," adding: "We need more time."

Reporting from Sean Defoe and Jack Quann


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Boris Johnson Brexit Cabinet EU Council Meeting Foreign Affairs Ministers Luxembourg Michel Barnier Tanaiste Simon Coveney Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

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