Brexit deal in sight as compromise over Irish border starts to emerge

BRUSSELS • Britain and the European Union signalled that a Brexit deal is in sight, with negotiators heading into three days of intensive talks in Brussels as a potential compromise over the Irish border starts to emerge.

Last Friday, EU officials said that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had indicated he was prepared to make sufficient concessions to allow detailed talks to begin.

Teams from both sides started work yesterday to explore whether they can arrive at the basis of an accord ahead of a summit of EU leaders that begins on Thursday.

While the pound posted its biggest two-day gain in a decade as an agreement inched closer, both sides cautioned that much work remains to be done if Britain is to leave the EU by Mr Johnson's Oct 31 deadline.

At issue are the Prime Minister's plans to take Northern Ireland out of Europe's Customs union and give Stormont, its power-sharing assembly, a veto over the arrangement.

The first would trigger the return of checks on goods crossing the frontier, something Dublin and the EU are opposed to, while the second would hand the Democratic Unionist Party an effective veto over the deal, something unacceptable south of the border.

One possible compromise negotiators are focusing on is a British idea for Northern Ireland to technically leave Europe's Customs union but for the province to adhere to the bloc's Customs rules and tariffs, according to two officials.

 
 

This would have the twin benefit of preventing a border on the island of Ireland and enabling Britain to strike trade deals around the world.

It is similar to a "Customs partnership" plan the EU rejected last year, and would leave Northern Ireland with a different Customs regime to the rest of the United Kingdom.

British authorities would have to collect tariffs on behalf of the bloc on goods crossing the Irish Sea.

BLOOMBERG

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 13, 2019, with the headline 'Brexit deal in sight as compromise over Irish border starts to emerge'. Print Edition | Subscribe