LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his cabinet on Sunday a last-minute Brexit deal was still possible but there was significant work to be done to reach one, as intensive talks with the European Union entered their most critical stage.
In a pivotal week that could decide the future of Brexit and the fate of the world’s fifth largest economy, Johnson is trying to strike an exit deal with the EU to allow an orderly split with its biggest trading partner on Oct. 31.
But Johnson must navigate the complexities of EU politics to clinch a deal at an Oct. 17-18 EU summit and then try to convince a deeply divided British parliament on Oct. 19 to ratify any agreement.
If he succeeds, Britain will leave the bloc on Oct. 31 with arrangements to minimise disruption at borders and preserve the complex supply chains that underpin swathes of the economy.
If he fails, Britain faces an uncertain future – lawmakers will begin a battle to delay Brexit that could end up being decided in the courts, while Johnson will fight for a no-deal exit at the end of the month to ensure his political survival.
British and EU negotiators are working through the weekend to see if they can turn the latest proposals into a deal that works for both sides.
EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier was updating the remaining 27 member states in Brussels on Sunday afternoon.
“Expect him just to say that talks will need to go on,” one EU diplomat said, adding that another update for the national envoys will come at a ministerial meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday, just two days before the make-or-break summit.
Even if the latest round of talks were to go well,