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04 November 2018, 11:03 | Devin Moran
Vince Cable was one of four pro-EU politicians who met EU chief negotiator in Brussels last Thursday More
Any agreement with Brussels would then need to win approval from British parliamentarians before the Brexit date of March 29, a far from easy process given factions with Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative party oppose her plans.
He claimed that the Brexit process could result in Northern Ireland ending up as part of an "effective European Union protectorate".
Britain's Brexit minister Dominic Raab believes a divorce deal with the European Union could be struck by November 21, it emerged Wednesday, prompting EU leaders to warn this would require a breakthrough within days.
UK Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington said negotiators were "very close", and that he hopes and expects that a deal will be secured in the next few weeks.
However, UK and European Union officials have said in recent days that a deal is getting closer and could be sealed this month.
The Times newspaper reported that a tentative deal had been reached on all aspects of a future partnership on services, as well as the exchange of data.
"We have resolved most of the issues and we are building up together what the future relationship should look like and making real progress".
But a deal is now firmly in sight, Raab said in a letter dated October 24 to the chairman of parliament's Brexit committee, although the issue of Northern Ireland remains.
"It's part of regular engagement we have with business, it's an opportunity for them to ask questions of the PM and, of course, of the Chancellor (Hammond), about anything they may be interested in", May's spokesman said.
Doing so would appease the Tories' parliament allies, the DUP, by preventing a regulatory and customs border from being enforced in the Irish sea.
Theresa May has apparently worked out a secret deal with Brussels which will keep the United Kingdom in a temporary customs union with the EU. This would avoid the EU's "backstop" solution of treating Northern Ireland differently from the rest of Britain.
"If that happens, I think it's possible to ensure that we get a withdrawal agreement that can be sold on both sides of the Irish Sea".
But the government's Brexit department stated that they are confident there will be a deal that works for businesses - and reiterated their stance against a People's Vote.
Discussions are now focusing on other methods of bringing the backstop to an end, including the possibility of a review clause, under which the two sides could extend the procedure, if more time is needed, or end it if they want to.
Officials working for the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, were also upbeat this week, telling ambassadors from the bloc's remaining 27 countries on Wednesday that there was a more positive mood around negotiations.
Mr Raab made the comment following a one-day visit to Northern Ireland.
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