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Last-ditch talks between London and Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiators failed to agree a draft divorce settlement on Sunday, still blocked on the issue of the Northern Irish border just days before a make-or-break European Union summit. Diplomatic sources confirmed that a meeting of the “diplomatic sherpas” — senior officials representing the leaders of EU members — that had been planned for Monday to review a draft deal has been cancelled.

Britain’s Brexit pointman Dominic Raab made an unannounced trip to the EU capital for talks with his opposite number Michel Barnier, briefly raising hopes that a deal might be in the offing.

Diplomatic sources in Brussels confirmed to AFP that negotiations have been suspended until Wednesday, when the leaders of the other 27 EU member states will be in town on the eve of their October summit, which had already been billed as a “moment of truth”. “We met today Dominic Raab and UK negotiating team. Despite intense efforts, some key issues are still open, including the backstop for IE/NI to avoid a hard border,” Barnier tweeted, referring to EU member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

“The commission informed the ambassadors that no deal was reached today. There will be no further negotiations until the summit,” one source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Other sources familiar with Barnier’s meeting with EU ambassadors confirmed this, and one added that “certain countries insisted that preparations for a ‘no deal’ be accelerated.” Raab’s department said “real progress” had been made in some areas, but admitted “there remain a number of unresolved issues relating to the backstop.”

“With several big issues still to resolve, including the Northern Ireland backstop, it was jointly agreed that face-to-face talks were necessary” ahead of the summit, Raab’s department had said.

A senior British government source played down initial reports a deal had already been done, saying there are still some “big issues” to be resolved and “Dominic has gone out there to try to resolve the outstanding issues”

FT reports “Brexit talks reached a dramatic stand-off in Brussels on Sunday night, after Theresa May warned that a draft treaty to take Britain out of the EU was a “non-starter” and risked tearing her government apart.

Mrs May sent Dominic Raab, her Brexit secretary, to Brussels to make clear that she could not sign up to the current terms for Britain’s exit at a European Council meeting on Wednesday.

Mr Raab returned home after tense talks with Michel Barnier, the EU chief negotiator, that lasted only an hour. No further talks are scheduled ahead of the summit, raising the prospect of a complete breakdown in the Brexit process. The pound dropped in Asia trading”

FT – France 24 

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