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UK Brexit minister’s visit to Brussels delayed to Friday

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By Agence France-Presse

A visit by Britain’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay to meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels has been delayed until Friday, an EU source close to the negotiations told AFP.

The trip to Brussels, originally set for Thursday, comes as Britain’s exit from the bloc reaches a critical stage, one week ahead of a make-or-break EU summit on October 17 and three weeks before the deadline to leave.

The source said Barclay and Barnier would meet over breakfast on Friday in the EU’s unofficial capital, saying the delay was due to an agenda issue.

The meeting by the chief negotiators will take place a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar to discuss the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland — the thorniest issue in the talks.

Britain is due to leave the EU on October 31 and Johnson insists he will keep to that deadline.

However, a law passed by rebel British MPs would force him to ask to delay Brexit if he has not reached a deal in time — something he says he will not do.

The government is planning to hold a special Saturday session of parliament on October 19, after the EU summit, whether or not there is a deal.

Tempers frayed on both sides of the Channel on Tuesday after a testy phone call between Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Downing Street sources speaking on condition of anonymity told reporters that intransigence on Merkel’s part meant the talks were close to breaking down.

European Council President Donald Tusk accused Johnson of playing a “stupid blame game”.

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