LUXEMBOURG CITY — Michel Barnier thinks a Brexit deal is difficult but still possible this week.
The EU’s chief negotiator told ministers on Tuesday the U.K. and the EU are yet to resolve the issue of customs in Northern Ireland, working on a solution that implies that checks on goods will have to take place outside the island of Ireland in some way that aligns with EU law, according to a diplomat in the room. Experts from the European Commission have been brought into discussions since Sunday to try to resolve the issue and Barnier said a “narrow path” to a deal is still open.
However, he added that only one day remains for the two sides to agree a new version of the text if a deal is to be signed off by leaders at the European Council summit on Thursday, the diplomats said.
“Even if the agreement will be difficult, more and more difficult, to be frank, it is still possible this week,” Barnier told reporters as he arrived at Tuesday’s meeting of EU ministers in Luxembourg to debrief them on the intensive Brexit talks launched at the end of last week.
“Obviously, any agreement must work for everyone, the whole of the United Kingdom, and the whole of the European Union … it is high time to turn good intention in a legal text,” he said.
“We always have shown a great deal of flexibility, but that hasn’t led to the necessary changes in London unfortunately” — Michael Roth, German EU minister
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn echoed Barnier’s more positive tone. “They will try to reach a deal by this evening,