Negotiating teams representing the European Union and United Kingdom are working hard to hammer out the legal text of a Brexit deal ahead of the bloc’s summit of leaders due to take place on 17-18 October. The EU and UK teams only had a short break after a marathon session yesterday (15 October) to nail down the fine details of their Brexit deal went into the early hours. There were mixed messages as negotiators from both sides on Wednesday (16 October) resumed last-minute discussions to avoid a disorderly Brexit, though any potential deal they reach will still face its toughest test at the political level.
However, while French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire earlier said he saw a “glimmer of hope”, separate sources in the UK government suggested that the chances of a deal were now “shrinking.” Thus, after gaining some ground earlier in the week on the currency markets, the pound sterling is now seen faltering, amid concerns that negotiations are stalling. Though “talks have been constructive but there still remain a number of significant issues to resolve,” said EU Migration Comissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who attended a Wednesday morning briefing by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
According to Barnier, three primary sticking points that remain are first, customs arrangements for the island of Ireland, secondly, the issue of giving Northern Irish authorities a greater say over regulatory arrangements, and the ability to veto them, and thirdly, guarantees of a level playing field, namely that Britain will not be at an unfair advantage when it comes to business regulation. However, even though a legal text can be ironed out at ministerial level, any deal reached could still be scuttled at a political level. UK’s PM Boris Johnson may find it hard to convince hardline Conservative Eurosceptic lawmakers as well as his allies from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, while the 27 EU members and the European Parliament may also be unwilling to make concessions on the level playing field or Northern Ireland.