- Michel Barnier says a Brexit deal is "realistic" and "possible" by the start of November.
- The chief EU negotiator says agreement is still needed on moves to prevent a hard Irish border.
- EU diplomats are reportedly keen to compromise in order to prevent the collapse of May's government.
- The comments cause the pound to rise 0.9% on the day.
LONDON — It is "realistic" and "possible" to expect a Brexit deal to be signed by the start of November, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday.
Speaking at a conference in Bled, Slovenia, Barnier said he expected a deal could be signed within six to eight weeks.
"I think that if we are realistic, we are able to reach an agreement on the first stage of this negotiation — which is the Brexit treaty — within six or eight weeks," he said.
"Taking into account the time necessary for the ratification process — the House of Commons on one side, the European Parliament and Council on the other side — we must reach an agreement before the beginning of November."
He added: "I think it’s possible."
Barnier said, however, that the UK needed to accept EU plans to prevent a hard Irish border before any deal could be made.
"We have to solve the issue of Ireland and some others in the next six to eight weeks," he said.
He said EU negotiators were keen to get onto the next stage of talks, after the Withdrawal Agreement is signed, adding that they were "ready to propose a very important, ambitious and unprecedented partnership" with the UK.
His comments come as the EU signals that they are willing to compromise in order to save Theresa May's premiership, in a move dubbed "Operation Save Theresa" by one EU diplomat.
The comments were welcomed by currency markets with the pound jumping 0.9% on the day.