Brexit: Ireland doubts Boris Johnson can do a deal with EU

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar expressed concern Friday over Britain being able to secure a divorce deal with the EU.

The gap between the two sides was "very wide" over the contentious issue of the Irish backstop, he said. This comes amid increased concern from EU businesses ahead of Brexit talks.

"We always said we are willing to explore alternative arrangements ... But so far I think it is fair to say that what we are seeing falls very far short of what we need" said the Irish leader speaking on RTE, an Irish radio broadcaster.

He added that he was not sure UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be able to make the compromises necessary to get through a Brexit deal that would win enough support in Parliament.

'Cautious optimism'

The doubts put a dampener on Johnson's latest comments that he is "cautiously optimistic" about reaching a deal.

"We are working incredibly hard to get a deal. There is the rough shape of a deal to be done," he said.

Johnson is set for renewed talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Luxembourg on Monday.

In an interview with German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, Juncker described Brexit as the "culmination of a continental tragedy."

Read more: Brexit: France losing patience with UK uncertainty

EU business hoping for agreement

EU business will also be hoping for a successful outcome to these talks to restore confidence in the slowing Eurozone economies.

Eric Schweitzer, president of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) warned on Friday that German would also feel the shock of a no-deal Brexit, which he called a "very probable scenario."

"Just before Christmas, many companies on all sides see this as a major challenge, if not a shock, not only in Britain, but also in
Germany" said Schweitzer.

He stated that the German economy is gradually adjusting to a no-deal UK exit from the EU and wants to avoid the worst effects.

"In view of the fast-approaching exit date, we must pull together to support those businesses which have yet to prepare for Brexit."

The renewed emphasis on a deal follows the publishing of the damningOperation Yellowhammer government report of a worst case scenario should Britain exit the EU without a deal.

Backstop the stumbling block

The Irish backstop, which is a guarantee thatthere would be no hard border on the island of Ireland has been the biggest sticking point so far, with uncertainty over how this can be enacted on the ground.

The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, would guarantee regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland to help keep goods flowing yet UK MPs rejected this three times.

With Johnson vowing to take Britain out of the EU on 31 October with or without a deal, the EU has focused in recent days on how agreement over the Irish question can be reached.

kmm/rt (Reuters, AP, dpa)

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