BORIS Johnson and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have said they can “see a pathway” to a possible Brexit deal.

Following more than two hours of talks at a country manor on the Wirral, the two leaders said they believed a deal was “in everybody’s interests”.

In a joint statement, they said they would now “reflect further” on their discussions while their officials would continue to “engage intensively”.

“Both continue to believe a deal is in everybody’s interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal,” the statement said.

“They agreed to reflect further on their discussions and that officials would continue to engage intensively on them.”

The meeting at the 19th-century Thornton Manor was seen as a last chance for Johnson to save his hopes of getting an agreement on a Brexit deal ahead of next week’s crucial EU summit.

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In their statement, the two leaders said their discussions had concentrated on the “challenges” of future customs arrangements and “consent” for the Conservative leader’s Brexit blueprint.

The Irish and other EU governments have objected to proposals to take Northern Ireland out of the EU customs union – along with the rest of the UK – meaning the return of customs checks on the island of Ireland.

They have also voiced strong concern about proposals in the plan for the new arrangements to require the consent of the Stormont Assembly, effectively handing a veto to the DUP.

The statement said Varadkar will now consult with Brussels while Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will meet the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, today.

The cautiously upbeat statement comes at the end of a week marked by acrimonious exchanges between London, Dublin and Brussels in which the negotiations appeared close to collapse.

Briefings by anonymous Downing Street sources accused Varadkar of back-tracking on previous commitments to try to find a deal and of refusing to negotiate.

And following a heated telephone call between Johnson and German chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, they claimed the EU was making it “essentially impossible” for Britain to leave with a deal.

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Time remains tight if there is to be an agreement in place for EU leaders to sign off at their summit on October 17 and 18, which would enable Johnson to take the UK out of the EU on October 31 with a deal in place.

On Wednesday, Barnier told the European Parliament there was no basis for a fresh agreement.

He said the UK had yet to put forward an “operational, legally binding solution” to replace the Northern Ireland backstop – intended to prevent the return of a hard border with the Republic.

And he said Johnson’s proposals for a trusted traders scheme, with any physical customs checks taking place away from the border, were based on a system “that hasn’t been properly developed, that hasn’t been tested”.

If there is no agreement, Johnson will face demands from opposition parties to comply with the so-called Benn Act, which would require him to go back to Brussels and request a further Brexit delay.

The Prime Minister has said that while he will abide by the law, he is determined to leave on the Halloween deadline come what may.

Government sources have said ministers are preparing to hold an emergency Saturday sitting of Parliament on October 19.

Many MPs believe if he cannot get a deal, Johnson will use the occasion to lambast them for thwarting an agreement, laying the ground for a “people versus Parliament” General Election, possibly as soon as next month.

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Earlier yesterday, Jeremy Corbyn dismissed accusations by the PM that Labour was running scared of an election.

At a rally in Northampton, he told supporters they were “champing at the bit” for the chance for a change of government, once they were sure Johnson could not push through a No-Deal break in the middle of the campaign.

Stephen Gethins, the SNP’s Europe and foreign affairs spokesman, said “the dangers of a No-Deal Brexit were present and increasing” with the October Brexit deadline looming.

“Our EU partners have made clear that [the PM’s] latest proposals are unworkable, and it’s evident from the meeting today with Taoiseach Varadkar that there are still serious concerns over the impact on the island of Ireland.”

He added: “The reality is that the longer Boris Johnson continues to stall, the greater the threat of a catastrophic No-Deal exit. That is a price we must not pay.”