Boris Johnson's government is set to enter intensive "tunnel" negotiations with the European Union over a possible Brexit deal ahead of a crunch summit in Brussels next weekend, in a major boost for the prospect of an agreement before the October 31 deadline.
Donald Tusk handed Boris Johnson a last-minute reprieve after talks with Leo Varadkar raised the prospects of a Brexit deal, but he warned the United Kingdom still has not presented a "workable, realistic proposal".
Downing Street is understood to have shared details of the proposed compromise privately with European Union negotiators, which paved the way for detailed formal talks to begin ahead of next week's meeting of European Union leaders.
The accelerated negotiations were agreed to by the EU27 after a "constructive meeting" between the bloc's chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay in Brussels today.
"Both continue to believe a deal is in everybody's best interest", the statement said.
Originally, Tusk said he was planning to pull the plug Friday on the Brexit talks, but because of the breakthrough he can now see talks going through the weekend, ahead of the EU's two-day summit, which starts next Thursday.
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The challenge of keeping this border invisible - something that has underpinned both the local economy and the region's peace deal - has dominated Brexit discussions for three years, ever since United Kingdom voters chose in 2016 to leave the EU.
Now Irish media are suggesting that the "pathway to a possible deal" most likely involves concessions from Mr Johnson with regards to the border, and that the UK/EU border will instead be in the Irish Sea, between Ireland and the UK, instead of on the island between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
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Sterling rose sharply on global money markets in the wake of the talks, on which Cabinet received a briefing on Friday morning.
The UK is due to formally leave the European Union on 31 October and Johnson has repeatedly promised that country will leave the bloc with or without a deal.
DUP leader Arlene Foster has said any Brexit deal that keeps Northern Ireland in the European Union "will not have our consent".
Johnson said late Thursday there was a "pathway" to a belated agreement to stave off a chaotic, costly no-deal Brexit on October 31, while Varadkar said the meeting was "very positive".
The pound was up around 2.2 cents, or 1.9%, against the United States dollar, to 1.2660.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put forward revised proposals for a deal last week.
France's European affairs minister, Amelie de Montchalin, said early Friday that a no-deal Brexit "is probable, at this stage". "Technical talks are taking place in Brussels as we speak".
"We had a constructive meeting with Steve Barclay and the British team", Mr Barnier told reporters.
If a deal did emerge, Mr Johnson would also need the backing of the DUP and Eurosceptic Tories to have any chance of getting it through without opposition support.