BORIS Johnson and Irish premier Leo Varadkar have raised hopes of a Brexit breakthrough after insisting they can “see a pathway” to a possible deal. 

The two leaders said it was in “everybody’s interest” to secure an agreement following more than two hours of talks at a country manor on the Wirral, Merseyside.

It comes ahead of next week’s crucial EU summit, with Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay due to meet the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels today for crunch talks. 

READ MORE: Gove: SNP undermining Brexit in order to 'smash up' UK 

Speaking to reporters at Liverpool Airport before his return to Dublin, Mr Varadkar said that, while there were still issues to be resolved, he believed it was possible to meet the Hallowe’en deadline.

He said: “I think it is possible for us to come to an agreement, to have a treaty to allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion, and to have that done by the end of October, but there’s many a slip between cup and lip.

“In terms of how long it will take, I can’t predict that with any certainty, but I think all sides would like there to be an agreement next week at the council if possible.

“Obviously there’s a further deadline after that which is October 31, so I would say a short pathway rather than a long one, but it’s impossible to predict that 
for sure.”

He said his talks with Mr Johnson had been “very positive” – marking a dramatic change of language from the past few days, during which the UK’s Brexit plans have received short shrift from Europe. 

Following a heated telephone call between Mr Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, No 10 sources had claimed the EU was making it “essentially impossible” for Britain to leave with a deal.

In a joint statement, Mr Varadkar and Mr Johnson said they had engaged in a “detailed and constructive discussion”. 

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The statement said: “Both continue to believe a deal is in everybody’s interest. They agreed they could see a pathway to a possible deal.

“Their discussion concentrated on the challenges of customs and consent.
“They also discussed the potential to strengthen bilateral relations, including on Northern Ireland.”

It came as the latest meeting of the cross-border Joint Ministerial Committee (European Negotiations) ended in a war of words. 

Scotland’s Brexit Secretary Mike Russell hit out at the UK Government’s “continued refusal to rule out a no-deal Brexit”, and insisted progress has even gone backwards in some areas. 

Meanwhile, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove accused the SNP of undermining no-deal Brexit preparations and seeking to “smash up” the UK and “separate families”. 

He said: “I can’t look into their hearts and know what it is that they think, but one of the worries I do have is that while there are some ministers in the Scottish Government who do take seriously their responsibilities, I do worry sometimes that the overriding purpose of the SNP is to smash up the United Kingdom and to separate families.

“I sometimes wonder that not just in rhetoric but in policy the SNP, instead of thinking of the interests of Scottish citizens first, thinks of the interests of their own agenda.

“These issues are far too important to be politicised in that way and I hope 
that the wiser voices in the Scottish Government will prevail to ensure 
that people do act where they need to act, in order to make sure the 
sovereign decision that the United Kingdom’s electorate came to is honoured.”

Mr Johnson’s Brexit proposals would see Northern Ireland taken out of the EU’s customs union while remaining in the single market for goods. 

Irish press reports have now suggested “significant movement” by the UK, while Mr Varadkar refused to be drawn on any “concessions” made by either side. 

Legislation passed by MPs last month, known as the Benn Act, would require Mr Johnson to write a letter to Brussels asking for a further delay if no deal has been reached by October 19. 

However, the Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted the UK will leave the EU on October 31. 

Speaking to journalists in Edinburgh, Mr Gove responded to suggestions the Government is planning to frustrate the law. He said: “We do 
obey the law, absolutely the rule of law is clear.

“There are all sort of different interpretations about what the Benn Act might mean. I don’t think that anything I can say would add to illuminating how the Act operates.”