Brexit talks to enter intensive ‘tunnel’ phase in boost for prospects of a deal

Brexit negotiations will now enter the “tunnel” phase of intensive and secretive talks in a major boost for Boris Johnson’s prospects of brokering a fresh deal.

The accelerated negotiations were agreed to by the EU27 after a “constructive meeting” between the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay in Brussels on Friday.

After talks came close to hitting the buffers, the Prime Minister managed to win some confidence that he can secure an agreement after meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

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Mr Barclay and Mr Barnier meet in Brussels (Francisco Seco/AP)

But the details of Mr Johnson’s concessions are not yet known.

Meanwhile, European Council president Donald Tusk handed the PM a last-minute reprieve to secure an agreement, but warned the UK still has not presented a “workable, realistic proposal”.

Mr Barclay and Mr Barnier were dispatched after the two prime ministers held face-to-face discussions in the Wirral on Thursday, prompting the leaders to “see a pathway” to a possible agreement.

Both camps welcomed Friday morning’s discussions as “constructive” and Mr Barnier went on to meet with the EU27 ambassadors who, the European Commission said, agreed to “intensify discussions over the coming days”.

This takes the negotiations into “the tunnel”, which is Brussels jargon for an in-depth phase of talks among a select group of negotiators designed to minimise leaks.

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