Brexit fraying UK-Irish relations, Varadkar warns

Marsha Scott
November 6, 2018

The EU agreed to a compromise on the backstop agreement to keep the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland last week, signalling they would accept keeping the whole of the United Kingdom in a customs union until both sides sign up to a deal that would prevent the need for a hard border.

The aim would be to satisfy Ireland, which insists that there must be no border infrastructure with the North after Brexit; the Northern Irish DUP party, which props up May's government and insists it must not be treated differently from mainland Britain; and the "Brexiteers" in May's party who say Britain must have the right to do its own trade deals after Brexit.

"I think it is possible to get a deal in November", he said.

The newspaper also said Mrs May wants to make enough progress this week to persuade the European Union to call a special summit in November to sign off on the final details.

Senior sources told the paper that Prime Minister Theresa May has secured concessions from Brussels, with the EU agreeing to write an "all-UK" customs union into the divorce deal.

Mrs May is said to continue to be pushing for a Canada-style free trade deal with the EU.

This comes after backbenchers are pressuring May to ensure there is a time limit on the backstop.

Mrs May is expected to brief the Cabinet on progress in talks when members gather for their weekly meeting at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday.

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A spokesperson said: 'The prime minister has been clear that we are making good progress on the future relationship and 95 percent of the withdrawal agreement is now settled and negotiations are ongoing'.

Negotiators are trying to find an emergency Irish border fix that would satisfy Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party and May's divided Conservative Party.

The EU had wanted to impose a Northern Ireland-only backstop, in which the region would remain in the single market and customs union, but May wants Brussels to accept an alternative UK-wide customs backstop, to avoid creating an invisible customs border in the Irish Sea.

With the sense that Brexit is moving into a final endgame, "Remain" campaigners are also stepping up efforts to reverse the decision, or at least to force a second referendum on the terms of the UK's departure from the EU.

The former Labour Prime Minister, Tony Blair, an active supporter of Britain remaining in the European Union, urged all MPs Sunday to vote down whatever Brexit deal May presents to parliament, and should instead push for another referendum.

Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney speaking to the media at Stormont House about Northern Ireland and Brexit earlier this year.

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.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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