British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar said on Thursday that a Brexit deal remains possible.
In a joint statement, Johnson and Varadkar said they had a ” detailed and constructive discussion.”
“Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybody’s interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal.”
The statement followed talks in which both leaders sought to roll the dice one last time in the hope of breaking the Brexit deadlock.
“I had a very good meeting with the prime minister… very positive and very promising,” Varadkar told Irish reporters. “I do see a pathway to an agreement in coming weeks.”
“I think it is possible for us to come to an agreement, to have a treaty agreed, to allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion and to have that done by the end of October but there’s many a slip between cup and lip and lots of things that are not in my control,” he said.
The British minister Michael Gove said that the conversation between PM Johnson and Taoiseach Varadkar had been “cordial and constructive” and that “good progress” had been made.
The meeting came three weeks to the day before the UK is due to leave the EU, with no deal in sight.
It followed a phone conversation between the two leaders earlier this week.
Ahead of the meeting, neither side was playing up expectations of a breakthrough. Varadkar has said achieving a deal will be “extremely difficult”. Johnson’s stance appeared more positive: the prime minister tweeted to say he was “still cautiously, cautiously optimistic”.
The reality is that there is a yawning gulf between the British government’s position, and that of Ireland and the EU. Talks in Brussels all but broke down this week amid a bout of acrimony.
The Irish prime minister has told parliament in Dublin his government has “grave difficulty” with the UK’s plan to pull Northern Ireland out of the EU’s customs union without the consent of its people – a majority of whom opposed Brexit in the 2016 referendum.