Talks between officials from the UK and European Union (EU) on Brexit have halted as the UK’s Parliament prepares to call a special Saturday session to discuss how to move forward.
Sources from both the UK and the EU have told The Guardian that no more meetings have been scheduled between the negotiating teams, which had been held almost daily since mid-September. The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will address the European Parliament late Wednesday to report on the situation, but sources have told the Guardian that it will be very difficult to reach a deal by next week.
According to the BBC, the UK Parliament will meet on Saturday, October 19 – only its fifth Saturday session since 1939 – during which Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask Members of Parliament to approve a deal, providing one has been agreed to. If not, a range of other options could be presented, including a no-deal Brexit or halting the process altogether.
The UK and the EU had been negotiating Johnson’s latest Brexit proposal, which reportedly attempts to avoid the imposition of a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by having Northern Ireland remain under the EU’s agri-food and manufactured goods regulations from 2021 through 2025. The EU had previously spoken against this plan, saying “The UK proposals do not match even remotely what was agreed as a sufficient compromise in the backstop.”
Th Irish border has been a key sticking point in Brexit negotiations. Some commentators have suggested that a harder border could “damage the spirit” of the Good Friday Agreement, a peace accord that followed a period of violence in Northern Ireland commonly called “The Troubles.”
A separate BBC report notes that a Scottish court has delayed ruling on a request to force Johnson’s administration to comply with the Benn Act, which requires Johnson to ask the EU for a Brexit extension if no deal is reached by October 19. The court said they would not rule on the matter until the political debate has “played out,” with plans calling for another session on October 21.
In terms of travel, both the United States and the European Union have deals in place to allow flights to and from the UK to continue, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit. At the same time, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit has had an impact on the UK’s travel industry. Brexit uncertainty was one of the factors blamed for the recent collapse of iconic UK travel brand Thomas Cook, along with a decline in the value of the pound (also partially due to Brexit uncertainty), changing booking habits and unusually hot weather that discouraged Northern Europeans from traveling. The company filed for insolvency and ceased operations early last week, stranding hundreds of thousands of travelers and prompting the UK’s largest repatriation effort since World War II. This week, all of the company’s UK storefronts were acquired by independent UK travel agency Hays Travel.