United Kingdom and EU officials resumed talks to clinch a Brexit deal on Wednesday just a few hours after late-night negotiations wound up, but it was far from clear they would reach an agreement before a leaders' summit on Thursday as European officials said negotiations have hit a "standstill".
Both sides said they were close to finding a basis for a treaty to ensure Britain heads for a managed withdrawal from the European bloc it has been part of for almost half a century.
The arrangement was rejected by Theresa May as a deal that no British prime minister could accept.
"The negotiating teams have made progress, but it's been slow - and they would need to make significant progress today if there is to be a deal that Michel Barnier can report on tomorrow to European Union capitals in advance of the leader's summit".
But other European sources warned it was not a done deal. But Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, the party that props up Johnson's minority government, strongly opposes any measures that could loosen the bonds between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
One EU official said an agreement was "close but not 100 per cent certain", adding "there are still parts that need to be nailed down".
"This time last week we were probably engulfed in darkness and depression in the context of Brexit", he said.
The PM's official spokesman said there "certainly remained issues to resolve", a sentiment echoed by European Union commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.
Brexit negotiations will resume in Brussels on Wednesday morning after "constructive" negotiations went into the night on Tuesday, a British spokesman said.
"The last moment is always a bit later than you think", one German government official said suggesting Brexit would have to be postponed beyond the end of the month if talks are to reach a successful conclusion.
European leaders hoped to decide whether to give the go-ahead to officials to draw up a final withdrawal treaty with Britain.
Barnier had said a text must be on the table by Wednesday if member state governments are to have a chance to consider it before the summit, because the 28 national leaders insist they will not debate the details of the agreement at their meeting.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said earlier today that it remained uncertain whether a deal would be ready in time for the Brussels summit.
Brexit is due to take place at 11 p.m. on October 31.
Britain and the European Union made headway yesterday in last-ditch talks on a Brexit deal ahead of a leaders' summit, but with just hours left to clinch an agreement it was still unclear if London could avoid postponing its scheduled departure on October 31. "We think the best way of doing that is with a deal, to leave in a smooth and orderly way". "That separates Northern Ireland from the rest of mainland Britain".
An EU diplomatic source told AFP that, under the deal being negotiated, Northern Ireland would remain in the EU's value-added tax (VAT) area to ensure smooth trade with EU member Ireland.
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