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Britain and Ireland see pathway to possible Brexit deal

A Brexit deal remains possible, Britain and Ireland said on Thursday in a statement issued following talks between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar.

“The Prime Minister (Johnson) and Taoiseach (Varadkar) have had a detailed and constructive discussion,” the joint statement said, after a private lunch meeting between the two leaders, in northwest England.

“Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybodys interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal.”

Britain is due to leave the 28-nation bloc on October 31, and attempts to find a deal have foundered over plans for the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland.

The currently all-but-invisible border underpins both the regional economy and Northern Ireland’s peace process.

There was little of substance in Mr. Varadkar and Mr. Johnson’s statement indicating a breakthrough or whether the “pathway” was near or far off.

The two agreed to reflect further on their discussions, which concentrated on the challenges of customs and consent.

Under a U.K. proposal, there would have to be customs checks on some goods, though not on the border itself. The EU says any customs checks are unacceptable.

In recent days, Britain and the EU have traded bad-tempered barbs about who is responsible for the deadlock in talks.

After Mr. Johnson’s Downing Street office claimed that EU intransigence had made it “essentially impossible” for the    U.K. to leave with a deal, European Commission President Donald Tusk warned against playing a “stupid blame game.”

Mr. Varadkar and other EU leaders say Mr. Johnson, who took office in July, has repudiated the withdrawal agreement made with the bloc by his predecessor, Theresa May. That deal was rejected three times by Britain’s Parliament, largely because of lawmakers’ opposition to provisions to ensure an open Irish border.

Mr. Johnson insists the U.K. will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a divorce deal.

Parliament is expected to hold a rare Saturday sitting on October 19 as lawmakers grapple with what to do next.

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