Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Theresa May secures 'secret Brexit deal to keep United Kingdom in customs union'

The low angle of the sun at this time of year is a joy when the weather is bright as this week There are some consolations in the shorter darker days
Nellie Chapman | 05 November, 2018, 15:12

Here, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said he remained "very fearful" Irish interests could be sacrificed by Europe to secure a deal and said Ireland has to be "vigilant".

"The Irish position remains consistent and v clear that a "time-limited backstop" or a backstop that could be ended by United Kingdom unilaterally would never be agreed to by Ireland or the European Union", Coveney said on Twitter.

But the government's Brexit department stated that they are confident there will be a deal that works for businesses - and reiterated their stance against a People's Vote.

The Sunday Times reported that the EU would allow the creation of a whole-UK customs union that would avoid the need for a Northern Ireland border "backstop" that has been at the heart of the impasse in negotiations.

Her plan would avoid the need for a hard border in Northern Ireland, which has always been the main sticking point in negotiations.

The EU has proposed a backstop that would mean Northern Ireland staying in the EU customs union, large parts of the single market and the EU VAT system. Raab's department said it did not comment on private meetings.

The Sunday Times report said preparations for a final Brexit deal were "far more advanced than previously disclosed" and that May's agreement would satisfy both remain-voting Tories and the hardline Eurosceptics within her party.

Source close to European Union negotiator Michel Barnier revealed that a "major concession" had been made on the Irish border during a meeting in London last week that will see regulatory checks on goods carried out at factories and shops rather than being conducted at the border.

May is also understood to be close to a political deal on a future economic partnership (FEP) with Brussels that would give Britain the green light to pursue a free trade deal similar to Canada.

EU law expert Professor Steve Peers told this newspaper: 'I think there became an increased chance of a deal once the EU apparently agreed to a UK-wide customs union with the EU in the withdrawal agreement'.

A spokesperson for the PM said: "This is all speculation".

There is the prospect of a special European Union summit later this month if a deal on the backstop can be reached later this week.

A spokesman for Ireland's Tanaiste Simon Coveney said: "The UK has given written commitments last December and March that the Withdrawal Agreement will include a legal guarantee of no return to a hard border in Ireland in any circumstance".

Both sides agree there must be no customs posts or other barriers that could disrupt businesses and residents or undermine Northern Ireland's peace.