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EU members give go-ahead for more intense Brexit talks
[BRUSSELS] EU member states on Friday gave Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier the go-ahead for more intense talks with Britain over the weekend, just days before a key European summit.
"The EU and the UK have agreed to intensify discussions over the coming days," the European Commission said.
"The Commission will take stock with the European Parliament and Member States again on Monday in view of preparing the General Affairs Council (Article 50) on Tuesday morning."
The General Affairs Council is a meeting of EU member state ministers in Luxembourg to draw up the agenda for the European Council summit on Thursday and Friday.
Mr Barnier's team has been in "technical talks" with British officials for some time, but these were not making enough progress towards a treaty text that could forestall a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit in three weeks.
Mr Barnier on Friday met his British opposite number, Brexit minister Stephen Barclay, for talks that both sides described as "constructive" - without giving details.
Following the breakfast meeting, Mr Barnier briefed ambassadors from the other 27 EU capitals, seeking their input on entering political negotiations on a text.
Afterwards, diplomats told AFP that the other member states had given Barnier the green light to step up talks.
"The EU's position remains the same," the Commission said.
"There must be a legally operative solution in the withdrawal agreement that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all-island economy and the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions, and safeguards the integrity of the Single Market."
It is still far from clear whether the talks will produce a workable draft text before the key European Union summit starting on October 17 -- or before Britain's exit from the bloc on October 31.