The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how the UK appears to be willing to make concessions to its plans for the Northern Ireland border after Brexit.
This follows a meeting last week at a country house in the north-west of England, between Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar, where the two leaders agreed that there is a “pathway to a possible Brexit deal.”
Surprising many skeptical EU officials, Johnson and Varadkar emerged from discussion to paint a very optimistic picture for Brexit and the backstop, suggesting a possible solution by month’s end.
The EU was likewise encouraged that the backstop dispute appears to have been resolved, but still relayed a message to its ambassadors over the weekend that a “a big gap” remains over customs arrangements.
In a briefing on UK-EU weekend talks on a Brexit deal, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said UK plans on the tracking of goods were unacceptable.
Earlier, Boris Johnson told his cabinet “significant work” was still needed.
It comes as his government’s agenda is to be set out in the Queen’s Speech.
Plans for life after Brexit, crime prevention and ending rail franchises are all expected to be outlined in the Queen’s address on Monday, which opens the new session of Parliament.
Meanwhile, the UK and EU negotiating teams are due to meet again in Brussels today, as efforts continue to reach a deal before a summit on Thursday and Friday.
The government says that, if it can strike an agreement at the summit, it will introduce a withdrawal agreement bill to be voted on next Saturday in a special Parliamentary session.
It is seen as the last chance to do this before Brexit is due to happen at 23:00 GMT on 31 October.
The government has also announced it intends to hold the Budget on 6 November, with Chancellor Sajid Javid saying it will be “the first budget after leaving the EU”.
Jon Trickett, Labour’s shadow Commons leader, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he would be “surprised” if the budget went ahead as planned.
“We have no idea if they are going to get this Brexit proposal through the House or not,” he said.
On Sunday, Mr Johnson told cabinet ministers he could see a “way forward” to a deal “in all our interests”.
The European Commission echoed the prime minister, saying: “A lot of work remains to be done.”
In a statement it added that the “intense technical discussions” between the UK and EU officials in Brussels would continue on Monday before member states were updated on the progress at a meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday.
The issue of the Northern Ireland border in post-Brexit arrangements is seen as the key factor in the EU-UK talks and Mr Johnson came up with revised proposals this month.
BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming said Mr Barnier, in his briefing to EU diplomats, said the UK had dropped its proposals to include an up-front veto for Northern Ireland politicians in the Stormont Assembly before any arrangements for Northern Ireland came into force.
But he said the UK is still seeking the power for Northern Ireland to leave the arrangements at some point in the future.
According to a note of his meeting with EU ambassadors on Sunday evening, Mr Barnier also said he would be willing to accept Mr Johnson’s plan for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK’s customs territory but apply EU customs procedures.
However, he said he could not accept a British proposal to track goods entering Northern Ireland to determine whether they ended up in Ireland.
Our correspondent said it appeared EU negotiators seemed to have “softened” their position, indicating they are prepared to keep talking until Wednesday, the eve of the summit, despite saying previously that a revised deal had to be ready a week in advance.
This Queen’s Speech will feel rather different to normal.
Boris Johnson does not have a majority in Parliament and cannot guarantee that he will be able to pass all the bills announced this morning. There is no guarantee the Queen’s Speech itself will pass.
Add into the mix the fact he wants a general election and some of what you will hear will feel more like a pitch to the country than a concrete plan for the next year in Whitehall.
There is also the fact that whatever is announced in the House of Lords could quickly be overshadowed by what happens in Brussels.
A lot has been spoken about crucial weeks at Westminster.
This really feels like it could be one – where key questions are answered.
Can the PM get a new Brexit deal? If so, can he persuade Parliament to back it? If not, can MPs force him to delay Brexit again?
Strap yourself in – it could be a bumpy few days.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.