Dutch PM 'cautiously optimistic' about progress on Brexit talks

Downing Street plays down idea of Brexit agreement being reached next week

European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday an agreement with Britain could be "within reach" next week, calling for decisive progress in the talks in time for a summit of all 28 EU leaders.

Commenting on the Irish backstop, Barnier said the EU's plan to keep Northern Ireland in the Single Market and customs union would help keep the border invisible - a goal of both sets of negotiators.

The backstop is the insurance policy for making sure the frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is maintained after Brexit.

Last night the DUP underlined its point by abstaining in a Commons vote in which it would normally have been expected to support the government. "Is the DUP aware of the Irish Government's position on this?"

In a series of tweets, Mr Johnson said that the deal would keep the United Kingdom in the customs union and Northern Ireland in the single market, and would mean increased checks on goods travelling between the province and the British mainland.

Such a move would end the fragile "confidence and supply" pact that the Conservatives have with the DUP to keep the Prime Minister in power.

The DUP previously said it could vote down the Budget later this month.

Steve Baker, Conservative MP for Wycombe, said he believed "at least 40" of his colleagues would vote against a deal along the lines the PM has proposed which would include this "backstop" for Northern Ireland.

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DUP leader Arlene Foster is steadfastly against any agreement with the European Union that would leave Northern Ireland being treated differently to the rest of the UK.

The DUP has ten MPs, although Ian Paisley will not be able to vote until 20 November after being suspended for failing to declare two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government.

Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary said reports from Brussels indicated progress on EU-UK talks seeking to broker a new compromise which would avoid a "hard border" after Brexit happens.

It's looking increasingly likely that if May is going to get a Brexit deal through Parliament, she will have to do so without the support of 9 DUP MPs.

The de-facto Deputy Prime Minister was pressed on the DUP's support when he appeared on ITV's Peston on Wednesday night. "Such a customs union would eliminate an important part of customs checks".

Former prime minister John Major, whose career as leader was crushed partly by eurosceptics, said the behaviour of some of those Conservatives was "an intolerable way to treat a prime minister who's in the middle of negotiations".

Just over a week remains before the October 18 summit in Brussels which was initially pencilled in as the deadline for agreement on withdrawal.

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