Britain's Brexit advisor David Frost, right, and British Ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow arrive at EU headquarters for a technical meeting on Brexit in Brussels on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

As Brexit deadline looms, talks go on, queen to give speech

October 14, 2019 - 6:14 am

LONDON (AP) — Brexit negotiators were meeting again Monday in an attempt to allow Britain to leave the European Union with a divorce deal at the end of the month.

Ireland said a Brexit deal may be possible in the coming days, after technical teams from Britain and the EU worked through the weekend, although both sides said significant gaps remain between their positions.

Discussions centered on the difficult issue of the future border arrangements between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.

Arriving for a meeting in Luxembourg, Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said "the less we say now, the better."

Despite his reticence, Coveney said "a deal is possible, and it is possible this month. May be possible this week. But we are not there yet."

Coveney insisted it was essential to give the negotiators time to iron out the remaining difficulties.

"There is still a lot of work to do," he said.

While the negotiators continue at the EU's glass-and-steel Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels, Queen Elizabeth II was preparing to deliver a speech outlining the legislative program for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government.

The queen's speech — delivered by the monarch from a gilded throne in the House of Lords but written by the government — is set to include more than 20 bills, including a law to implement an EU withdrawal agreement, should one be reached. There's also a plan for post-Brexit immigration rules and bills on law and order, health care and environmental protection.

The speech is part of the State Opening of Parliament, a ceremony steeped in centuries-old symbolism of the power struggle between Parliament and the British monarchy. Lawmakers are summoned to listen to the queen by a security official named Black Rod — but only complied after slamming the House of Commons door in his face to symbolize their independence.

The state opening is usually an annual event, but amid the country's Brexit chaos there has been no queen's speech for more than two years — the longest gap for more than three centuries.

The government's critics say Monday's speech is little more than a stunt, because Johnson's Conservative administration lacks a majority in Parliament and an election looks likely within the next few months, whether or not Britain leaves the EU as scheduled on Oct. 31.

EU leaders, including Johnson, are due to meet in Brussels Thursday and Friday to see whether a Brexit deal is possible before Oct. 31.

The challenge of maintaining an invisible border on the island of Ireland — something that underpinned both the local economy and the region's peace deal — has dominated Brexit discussions for three years since U.K. voters chose in 2016 to leave the EU.

Negotiations intensified last week after Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said they could see a "pathway" to a divorce agreement that avoids a no-deal Brexit, something economists say would hurt both the U.K. and EU economies.

If a Brexit deal is reached, it still needs to be approved by both the British and European parliaments. Many British lawmakers — on both pro-Brexit and pro-EU sides of the debate — remain unconvinced.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said Sunday that his party was unlikely to support any deal agreed upon by Johnson.


Casert reported from Luxembourg.


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