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The Latest: Tusk: Brexit deal could be signed this year

European Council President Donald Tusk, left, and Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar arrive before their meeting at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain’s divorce from the European Union (all times local):

3:50 p.m.

Top European Union official Donald Tusk sees a chance that an initial agreement on Britain’s turbulent departure from the 28-nation bloc could be signed still this year.

EU Council President Tusk said Saturday that at the Oct. 17 EU summit, both Britain and the EU will try to finish their debates or at least bring their positions close. If necessary, a dedicated council meeting could follow in November.

Tusk said he believes there ‘s a “chance that before the year’s end such a (Brexit) agreement can be achieved.” He said he hopes the terms will help minimize “losses” from Brexit on both sides.

Tusk was in Krakow, in his native Poland, addressing a conference that debated the role of the Catholic Church in the process of European integration.

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12:15 p.m.

The chances of Britain and the European Union striking a Brexit deal on their divorce are rising, one of the bloc’s leaders said, amid reports the two sides are moving closer on the fraught issue of the Irish border.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told three Austrian newspapers in comments published Saturday that “the rapprochement potential between both sides has increased in recent days.”

Negotiations faltered after the EU said last month that British Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal for post-Brexit economic relations was unacceptable.

But officials have been meeting behind the scenes before a key summit in Brussels on Oct. 17 and 18. EU leaders say there needs to be major progress at the meeting for there to be a deal before Britain leaves the bloc on March 29.

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