Possible Brexit deal comes in to view

A haulage fleet

News of the rare sitting comes as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, on Thursday in a last ditch bid to try and break the deadlock on a Brexit deal, while continuing to insist the UK will leave on 31 October with or without an agreement.

But with the crucial European Union summit in Brussels starting in a week, the chance of the PM securing a new Withdrawal Agreement is looking increasingly unlikely.

The European Union's two most powerful leaders, Germany's Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, will meet at the Elysee Palace on Sunday ahead of the October 17-18 EU summit, Macron's office said.

Irish PM Varadkar just updated markets in Liverpool following a meeting with British PM Boris Johnson where the political leaders discussed the sticky subject of Northern Ireland's backstop and how to avoid a hard border. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal.

Barnier said the U.K.'s ideas were fundamentally flawed because they would mean imposing customs checks on the island of Ireland, and because they gave Northern Ireland's regional authority a veto on how to proceed.

Officials will also "continue to engage intensively" with each other in the search of resolution.

Britain's Brexit minister, Steve Barclay, was due to have lunch with European Union chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Thursday.

At the home front, Johnson is facing a rebellion in his cabinet, with a group of ministers poised to resign due to concerns over a no-deal Brexit.

The Irish Times reported there was "very significant movement" from Johnson on the customs issue in Thursday's talks. It will have to consent to any solution to the hardest Brexit riddle of all: how to prevent the British province of Northern Ireland becoming a backdoor into the EU's markets without having border controls.

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"They are seriously focused on trying to resolve this issue and trying to get a deal on which basis we can leave the European Union".

Any sign of Dublin meeting that offer with a similar concession could be the start of serious negotiations towards a deal with the EU.

But Mr Barnier struck a downbeat tone yesterday, telling the European Parliament that "we're not on the point of envisioning and finding a deal".

The Irish and other EU governments have objected to proposals to take Northern Ireland out of the EU customs union - along with the rest of the United Kingdom - meaning the return of customs checks on the island of Ireland.

The British leader´s plans would also see Northern Irish politicians given a vote every four years on maintaining the agreed arrangements.

Journalists are being kept away from the meeting which European Union officials believe could prove a defining moment in the three-year process.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly stated he will not delay Brexit beyond 31 October, but legislation passed by MPs will compel the prime minister to seek an extension to the Article 50 negotiating if he does not secure a Brexit deal - or MPs explicitly approve a no-deal Brexit - by 19 October.

The EU affairs minister of Finland, which now holds the bloc's rotating presidency, said the prospect of a no-deal exit was a "dangerously realistic scenario".

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