Juncker signals optimism for agreement on Brexit deal


European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker has expressed optimism that a Brexit deal could be reached by November, as talks between the UK and the EU gained pace over the last few days.

Speaking to reporters in Austria this morning, Juncker signalled that while there remains some stumbling blocks, such as the Irish border issue, a no-deal scenario must be avoided.

"I think we need to refrain from this scenario of a no-deal," he said. "That would not be good for the UK as it is for the rest of the union."

"I have reason to think that the rapprochement potential between both sides has increased in recent days. But it can not be foreseen whether we will finish in October. If not, we’ll do it in November," he added.

Foreign office minister Alan Duncan supported Juncker's assessment, suggesting a deal would be in place before the end of the year.

Read more: EU negotiators predict Brexit deal to be 'very close'

Juncker's comments come after negotiators in Brussels predicted the two sides were "very close" to a deal being finalised, after European Council president Donald Tusk offered an enhanced Canada-style trade deal to the UK on Thursday.

One negotiator from the meeting told Reuters progress had been made on issues such as how to enforce the exit agreement, and the protection of goods from special origins however.

Additionally, he implied that the EU may be open in principle to the UK's proposition of an emergency Irish border fix before European leaders are next scheduled to meet in 11 days time.

The UK is set to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

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