Johnson could secure Brexit deal in next two weeks, Leo Varadkar suggests

Boris Johnson could secure a Brexit deal in the next two weeks, but the Prime Minister’s current proposals do not form the basis for “deeper negotiations”, the Irish premier has said.

Leo Varadkar said next Friday would be a reasonable cut-off point to get a deal done ahead of the following week’s summit in Brussels, but that an extra 24 or 48 hours could be made available for last-minute talks.

“I think a deal is still possible… It is possible at the European Council summit in two weeks’ time but the current position as of today is the European Union, including Ireland, doesn’t feel that the proposals put forward by Prime Minister Johnson yet form the basis for deeper negotiations,” he said.

“But there is plenty of time for the UK Government to put forward further proposals and we are in the process of trying to arrange a meeting between me and Prime Minister Johnson next week.”

The EU dealt a heavy blow to the PM’s new Brexit proposals on Friday, and anticipated weekend talks between the two sides were called off.

The European Commission said EU member states had agreed the proposals “do not provide a basis for concluding an agreement”.

A spokesman said discussions between the two sides would not take place this weekend and instead the UK would be given “another opportunity to present its proposals in detail” on Monday.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte said he had spoken to Mr Johnson on Saturday, but that “important questions remain about the British proposals”.

“There is a lot of work to be done ahead of £EUCO on October 17/18,” he tweeted.

The Prime Minister won the backing of former premier David Cameron, who said he “completely supports” his efforts to get a deal in Europe and take it through the Commons, adding: “That’s the best thing that could possibly happen.”

Cheltenham Literature Festival
David Cameron speaking during the Cheltenham Literature Festival (Jacob King/PA)

Mr Cameron, who was speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, said he thought there was a “good chance” of Mr Johnson’s efforts succeeding.

He added: “It is difficult but I think it is far better than a no-deal outcome, which I don’t think is a good outcome and not something I would recommend.”

His proposals were also well-received by the likes of Margot James – who was one of the 21 Tory rebels expelled from the party last month – and Paul Scully of the European Research Group of Tory Eurosceptics.

Ms James told BBC Radio 4’s The Week In Westminster she thought she and the other sacked rebels would be able to support the PM’s proposals.

She said: “If the Prime Minister can get EU and Irish agreement then I think that we would – we’ve all got reservations – but we would be prepared to compromise and vote for the deal.

Our prime concern really is to avoid Britain leaving without a deal.”

Mr Scully said there was a “lot of sympathy” among members of the ERG to get the deal through the Commons, adding: “It does most of the things that Leavers asked of our Government to sort out.”

But Labour’s Lisa Nandy told the programme: “The truth is we’re further away from a deal than we were two months ago and I can’t see this getting anywhere.”

It comes after Mr Johnson insisted on Friday that he would not delay Brexit, despite his lawyers saying he will comply with a law calling for the October 31 exit date to be postponed if there is no deal.

The Prime Minister accepted he must send a letter requesting a delay to Brexit beyond the Halloween deadline if no deal is agreed with Parliament by October 19, Scotland’s highest civil court heard.

But the PM later said the options facing the country were his proposed new Brexit deal or leaving without an agreement, “but no delay”.

The Prime Minister has previously said “we will obey the law” but will also leave on October 31 in any circumstance, without specifying how he would achieve the apparently contradictory goals – fuelling speculation that he had identified a loophole to get around the Benn Act.

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