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

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

The EU deems a backstop necessary to ensure there is no return to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, if the United Kingdom and the EU are unable to secure a long-term free trade deal after the end of the Brexit transition period in 2020.

A senior EU source said the United Kingdom prime minister would need determine whether she could sell an open-ended customs union to her party, but the calculation in Brussels was that it would be acceptable to the House of Commons as a whole.

Britain wants instead to keep the whole U.K.in an EU customs union, but only temporarily.

But Downing Street has reportedly dismissed the report as "speculation".

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.

The plan sees the whole of Britain remaining in the EU customs union - not just Northern Ireland.

It has so far suggested a backstop that would see the United Kingdom as a whole remaining aligned with the EU customs union, possibly for a limited time.

He said there was a "rapidly ticking clock" but that minds were now being focused with a view to concluding a deal and he welcomed that.




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.

It came as more than 70 business leaders backed a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, warning that the United Kingdom faces "either a blindfold or a destructive hard Brexit" that would be bad for both firms and jobs.

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

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. That is why we are increasingly positive on the expectation of reaching a deal", he said at a conference in London today.

"In March the United Kingdom agreed this backstop will apply "unless and until" a close future relationship eliminates any need for border infrastructure or related checks and controls".

The Sunday Times has been told that talks over a final deal are far more advanced than previously indicated, with a 50-page document likely to be published, rather than the five-page plan many were expecting.

"I would have thought there will be quite a lot of Labour MPs in the Midlands, in the north, south Wales, sitting in seats where there was a big leave majority and by voting for May's deal they can say to their constituents "I voted for us to leave the European Union" even if the detail means we haven't really".

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