UK Press Reverberates in Anticipation of Brexit Deal's Bleak Prospects

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was urged not to press ahead with his plans for big tax cuts

"We are working for a deal with the United Kingdom".

At the heart of Tuesday's political drama was an early morning phone call from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Johnson, regarding the UK's suggestion to have two borders around Northern Ireland - turning the existing (invisible) border with the Republic of Ireland, an European Union member, into a formal customs border (albeit with physical checks and infrastructure some distance from the border itself), with a regulatory border in the Irish Sea, allowing Northern Ireland to remain in the EU's "single market". Downing Street said that "if this represents a new established position, then it means a deal is essentially impossible not just now but ever".

This, the source said, marked a shift in Germany's approach and made a negotiated deal "essentially impossible".

Tusk gave an insight into the frustration at the anonymous briefings over the Merkel call, the alleged content of which described by senior politicians in Berlin as "improbable".

Mrs Merkel's office said it would not comment on "private" conversations.

"What's at stake is not winning some stupid blame game", Tusk wrote in a tweet directed at the prime minister.

A frustrated Mr Tusk accused Britain of playing with "the future of Europe and the UK" with no clear plan of what the country wanted. "You don't want a deal, you don't want an extension, you don't want to revoke, quo vadis?".

After the call, Arlene Foster, leader of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which supports Johnson's Brexit stance, said accepting that position would be "surrender".

Johnson's spokesman said the British leader and Merkel had had a frank exchange and Britain had not seen any compromise from the EU.

"It would run counter to all the principles the German government has followed for the last three years, namely that the negotiations are led by the European commission".

"They say she said Northern Ireland has to stay in the customs union, in this trade bloc, to protect the integrity of an open Ireland - forever".

After presenting them, government sources hoped the sides might be able to enter an intense 10-day period of talks nearly immediately, but a number of senior European Union figures, including Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, warned they did not form the basis for deeper negotiations - even if they believed a deal could still be done.

The unnamed Downing Street briefings have been widely attributed to Dominic Cummings, the former Vote Leave supremo who is now the prime minister's chief adviser.

While the Times newspaper did not specify how many Conservative lawmakers oppose a no-deal scenario, the Financial Times reported early on Wednesday that at least 50 members of parliament from the party will revolt against a general election manifesto pledging to pursue a no-deal Brexit. "To brief out a confidential phone call in such a manner is utterly unprofessional and infuriating to anyone who has been working on a deal".

"I think it's going to be very hard to secure an agreement by next week, quite frankly", Varadkar told Irish broadcaster RTE late Tuesday after a 40-minute phone call with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar reiterated their desire for a Brexit deal in a phone conversation on Tuesday evening and agreed to meet later this week, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The now set to leave the European Union, with or without a Brexit deal, on October 31.

But the only key issue on which the United Kingdom could wield its veto would be the EU's seven-year budget which is unlikely to come to a vote until June, or September at the latest. Many of them say an extension of negotiations is more likely.



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