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Brexit negotiators have given themselves four days to solve the riddle of the Irish border, the biggest remaining obstacle to a deal. By Monday morning, the EU and UK are aiming to have a full “backstop” plan to ensure there will be no border infrastructure under any circumstances between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The negotiators are working in what they describe as a “tunnel”, which means they are taking pains not to leak details from their talks. But a framework for resolving the vexatious issue has been clear for some time. A compromise on the backstop looks within reach.

Still, one senior EU figure said the risk of a failure remains uncomfortably high, warning “a serious crisis” may be looming at a summit of EU leaders on Wednesday. The issue is crucial for Northern Ireland, which is still recovering from decades of bloodshed between the 1960s and 1990s.

Any agreement will also shape the future UK-EU relationship — and place political constraints on the UK’s future trade autonomy, which could prove decisive when Westminster votes on any Brexit deal.

FT

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