Just hours left to secure a Brexit deal before EU summit

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – The European Union gave Britain until the end of Tuesday to work out a Brexit deal that can be approved at a leaders’ summit this week but said a delay to the Oct. 31 scheduled departure date and a breakdown of talks were also still on the cards.

A man walks past an UK government Brexit information campaign poster at a bus stop in central London, Britain, October 15, 2019. REUTERS/Toby Melville

As the clock ticked, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier updated the 27 remaining member states, and technical talks continued in a push to get an agreement.

The main sticking point remains the border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

Three years after Britons voted in a referendum to quit the EU, negotiators are still wrestling with the question of how to prevent the border becoming a backdoor into the bloc’s single market without erecting controls which could undermine the 1998 peace agreement that ended decades of conflict.

“Even if an agreement has been difficult, more and more difficult, it’s still possible this week,” Barnier told reporters in Luxembourg, where he briefed EU ministers.

Barnier also said he saw three possible scenarios ahead – a deal on Tuesday, a Brexit delay, or a breakdown of talks.

However, Ireland’s foreign minister made clear that the window of opportunity was closing, saying a deal must be done by the end of Tuesday to be put forward for approval at the summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

“It is of course possible to move beyond the summit and to continue talks next week,

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