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Over to EU now on Brexit, Britain says after last ditch offer

Credit: REUTERS/PHIL NOBLE

Britain is willing to negotiate the details of its last ditch Brexit offer to the European Union but it is now up to the bloc to be creative and flexible to avoid a disorderly departure on Oct. 31, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said on Thursday.

Edits headline and recasts lead, adds quotes

LONDON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Britain is willing to negotiate the details of its last ditch Brexit offer to the European Union but it is now up to the bloc to be creative and flexible to avoid a disorderly departure on Oct. 31, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said on Thursday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a final Brexit pitch to the EU on Wednesday, offering a possible compromise on the Irish border that was cautiously welcomed by the EU though the two sides still remain far apart.

"It is now for the EU to respond and also show they can be creative and flexible," Barclay said. "This sets out the broad landing zone," he said, adding that the British were prepared to negotiate the details.

Johnson went further than many expected on the most contentious issue - the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland - with a proposal for an all-island regulatory zone to cover all goods, replacing the so-called backstop arrangement he says he cannot accept.

Besides the concession though, Johnson proposed giving Northern Ireland institutions the ongoing power to abide by or exit the regulatory zone - a possible step too far for Ireland and the EU.

With less than a month left until Britain is due to leave the EU, the future of Brexit, its most significant geopolitical move since World War Two, is uncertain. It could leave with a deal or without one - or not leave at all.

When asked if there was enough time to deliver a Brexit deal, Barclay said: "We don't want an extension and we do believe there is enough time."

"We are focused on getting a deal because we think this is the best way forward," Barclay said. "These are serious proposals and clearly we need to have a negotiation with the EU on taking them forward."

While London's last-minute proposals does include some concessions on the Irish border, many EU diplomats are convinced that the United Kingdom is heading towards either a delay or a no-deal exit.

Johnson says he wants to get a deal at an Oct. 17-18 EU summit. A law passed by his opponents forces him to delay Brexit unless he strikes a deal. Johnson said further delay was "pointless and expensive".

Amid so much pessimism about the possibility of a deal in just weeks, many diplomats say a phoney struggle is underway between London and Brussels to apportion blame.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew MacAskill; editing by James Davey)

((guy.faulconbridge@thomsonreuters.com; 07825218698))

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