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Brexit optimism as European leaders convene for European Council summit


Brexit optimism as European leaders convene for European Council summit

boris johnson european council
Photo: Rex Features

The European Council, comprised of the leaders of all EU member states, will meet in Brussels today.

As has often been the case, Brexit will dominate the agenda. Optimism has risen after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed establishing a customs border in the part of the Irish Sea that separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK. The proposal avoids a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland while also keeping Northern Ireland in the UK’s customs territory on a legal basis.

Talks over the next 48 hours are expected to focus on hashing out a legal agreement that Johnson can take to parliament before an October 19 deadline that would require him to seek an extension.

Both sides are motivated to strike this agreement. For Brussels, Johnson’s proposal represents a major concession—it may not want to risk the PM establishing a stronger mandate by winning an election and subsequently changing his mind in the event of an extension. For Johnson, an agreement would allow him to honour his promise to deliver Brexit by October 31.

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This raises the chances that an agreement will be struck over the next two days. If so, Johnson’s next hurdle is to get the deal approved by parliament—despite heading a minority government.

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