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No Brexit deal tonight as talks go down to the wire

A new Brexit deal will not be agreed tonight, a government source has told Sky News.

British and EU negotiators have been locked in talks in a bid to thrash out an agreement that leaders could sign off at a summit on Thursday.

But despite indications that a deal is potentially within reach, a breakthrough has yet to materialise.

Tusk: Brexit clarity 'in seven to eight hours'

Boris Johnson told his cabinet earlier that "there was a chance of securing a good deal but we are not there yet and there remain outstanding issues".

As well as updating his top team, the prime minister also held talks with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party and the European Research Group of Conservative MPs.

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The support of both groups will be key to getting any agreement passed in parliament.

On Thursday the focus will shift to Brussels, with the PM travelling to the Belgian capital for a gathering of fellow EU leaders.

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Mr Johnson will use the European Council summit to try and get a deal over the line and bring back an agreement to present to MPs.

If he is successful, the stage will be set for a possible vote on an agreement during an historic sitting of the Commons on Saturday.

If not, the PM will have to ask for a delay to Brexit under the terms of legislation passed by opposition MPs.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay earlier confirmed that in that scenario Mr Johnson will write a letter to the EU asking for an extension to Article 50 beyond 31 October.

For now, the focus is on the potential for a deal.

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Barclay: PM will ask for Brexit extension

EU sources have told the Reuters news agency that a tentative deal is largely ready, but "overall backing from the British government is needed to launch it all".

The bloc's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, updated EU ambassadors on the state of play on Wednesday evening.

He said little to the waiting journalists as he left that briefing, saying simply: "We are working."

Overall, the mood music from European leaders has been cautiously optimistic.

French President Emmanuel Macron said: "I want to believe an agreement is being finalised and that we will be able to endorse it tomorrow."

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Appearing at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he added that it was his hope that a deal "can be found in the coming hours".

"We are in the final sprint," Ms Merkel declared.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said there was a "pathway to a possible deal", but there remain issues that need to be "fully resolved".

However, even if Mr Johnson returns from Brussels with a deal, there is no guarantee that MPs will pass it.

Sky's deputy political editor Sam Coates explores the plan for Northern Ireland as the EU and the UK government head into intense talks.
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There are numerous groups that the PM will have to win round.

Perhaps the most vital is the DUP.

Leader Arlene Foster earlier poured cold water on suggestions that one of the main stumbling blocks to a deal – Northern Ireland consent issues – had been removed.

"Discussions continue. Needs to be a sensible deal which unionists and nationalists can support," she wrote on Twitter.

The key issue that needs to be addressed is the issue of the Irish border.

Brexit on the border

Theresa May managed to negotiate a deal with the EU – but saw it rejected three times by parliament.

This was in large part due to the presence in the deal of the backstop.

This is an insurance policy designed to keep the frontier on the island of Ireland open in the event the issue cannot be sorted out before Brexit takes full effect.

Having come to office pledging to scrap the backstop from the withdrawal agreement, Sky News understands that Mr Johnson has in recent days proposed a compromise to try and break the deadlock.

The PM's new proposal would replace the backstop, with Northern Ireland continuing to administer EU tarRead More – Source

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