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Emmanuel Macron tells of hope over Brexit deal 'being finalised'
16 October 2019, 17:57
Emmanuel Macron has said he “believes a Brexit deal is being finalised” and that he is hopeful it can be signed off tomorrow at a key EU summit.
The French President told a press conference, held with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Toulouse, that he hoped the deal could be finalised before the end of the week – ahead of the October 31 deadline.
He said: “I believe a [Brexit] deal is just being finalised, and we are going to be able to dedicate ourselves to that tomorrow.”
The European Council will gather in Brussels on Thursday in last-minute talks to seal a Withdrawal Agreement.
But Boris Johnson will still need to convince Eurosceptics within his party and the DUP to back whatever deal is reached.
He launched a charm offensive in Downing Street on Tuesday evening as he held a series of talks with backbenchers and the leaders of the DUP.
Earlier on Wednesday, officials on both sides of the Channel said that numerous obstacles still needed to be overcome for a fresh agreement to be brokered.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said Mr Johnson had updated his Cabinet on Wednesday afternoon, which gave its "full support" to get a deal ahead of the summit after a "positive discussion".
"He said there was a chance of securing a good deal but we are not there yet and there remain outstanding issues," the spokesman added.
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg left Number 10 at around 6.15pm, telling reporters that the negotiations were going "splendidly".
But the PM was allegedly spotted "looking sombre" earlier in the afternoon after a meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbenchers.
During a brief address to the meeting, Mr Johnson compared the situation to climbing Mount Everest, according to MPs who attended.
Referring to the Prime Minister, leading Brexiteer Mark Francois said: "He said 'we are not quite at the summit, we are at the Hillary Step'.
"'The summit is not far but at the moment there is still cloud around the summit'."
Mr Francois added: "The other thing he said was if we cannot achieve a deal despite the best efforts of the United Kingdom, we will still leave the European Union at Halloween.
"He was absolutely crystal clear about that."
The reported comments appeared at odds with remarks earlier in the day by Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, who confirmed that Mr Johnson will write a letter asking for an Article 50 extension if no deal is in place by Saturday, something the Prime Minister has repeatedly ruled out.
A legal text needs to be published ahead of tomorrow's summit if the EU27 are to consider ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement at the two-day meeting.
Their approval would allow Mr Johnson to put the deal to MPs in a proposed extraordinary sitting of Parliament on Saturday, between 9.30am and 2pm.
The Government was to table a motion on Wednesday to ask Parliament to back the sitting, the first on a Saturday for 37 years.
During the weekend session, MPs would be able to back or reject any deal presented to them, or discuss what to do next in the Brexit saga.
This story is being updated