UK PM Theresa May says Brexit deal is close - Financial Times reports

Marco Green
October 12, 2018

Negotiations between the two sides have focused on the proposals for a so-called "backstop" to ensure that there is no return to a "hard Border" between the North and the Republic.

Earlier on Thursday, May told Northern Ireland journalists that Irish border talks would likely continue until November.

Cabinet ministers briefed on the Brexit talks said the issue of the Irish backstop was close to being settled, the FT said.

Her signal follows anger among her Democratic Unionist Party allies that the proposals could divide Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom for customs purposes.

According to reports, global trade minister Liam Fox, home minister Sajid Javid, defence minister Gavin Williamson, foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, environment minister Michael Gove and Brexit minister Dominic Raab have challenged the PM over fears she will accept an unlimited backstop.

Barnier warned that companies will have to adjust even if there is a Brexit deal.

Mr Coveney said: "It is a deal breaker".

Prime Minister Theresa May's office insisted Friday it would not "trap" Britain in an endless customs union with the EU after Brexit, amid reports some ministers could quit if this is the price of a divorce deal.

But it is opposed by some within her own party who argue it would compromise the UK's sovereignty - former foreign secretary Boris Johnson has led criticism and Brexiteers have backed a "Canada plus plus" deal instead, modelled on Canada's free trade deal with the EU.

Barnier earlier in the day briefed European Union commissioners on the negotiations.

As he left, Tory chief whip Julian Smith said: "The Prime Minister and the Government are conducting a complex negotiation that is going well and we should be backing the Prime Minister".

The South Belfast MP added that if a "sensible Brexit" was not delivered, the DUP's support for Mrs May would not be forthcoming.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said that his party are fully behind Arlene Foster, despite speculation that the party leader could face the axe.

On Thursday, The Sun newspaper quoted Downing Street sources as saying that any move by the DUP to vote against the budget due at the end of this month "would be a clear breach of the Tory-DUP confidence and supply agreement - meaning Ulster would also have to pay back its £1bn bonus from the government".

The rows come with just days until her crucial summit with European Union leaders dubbed a "moment of truth" by the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

"For my perspective, to be blamed for Brexit when I neither supported the referendum or supported Brexit is a little bit tribal, unreasonable, I would say", he added.

"The only visible systematic checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom would involve scanning the bar codes on lorries or containers, which should be done on ferries or in transit ports".

He told the BBC's Political Thinking podcast: "I have great sympathy for her plight and I think the way she is being treated by some of her colleagues is absolutely outrageous".

Three ministers - Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and Commons leader Andrea Leadsom are said to have deep concerns about such a concession.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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