Published: Sun, October 13, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Brexit: NI must stay in United Kingdom customs union, says DUP

Brexit: NI must stay in United Kingdom customs union, says DUP

As talks between the United Kingdom and the European Union have taken a sudden and surprisingly turn in favour of the possibility of a deal, Boris Johnson has one obstacle to overcome: convincing allies in Northern Ireland to get in line with any agreement, even if it keeps them locked in current European Union customs arrangements.

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, approved an intensification of the discussions after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, said they could see a "pathway" forward following talks on Thursday.

Donald Tusk, the European Union council president, said on Friday he had told the prime minister to present his Brexit proposals to the European Union by next Thursday but added that "positive signals" were now emerging from London.

Barnier's team has been in "technical talks" with British officials for some time, but these were not making enough progress towards a treaty text that could forestall a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit in three weeks.

Both camps welcomed this morning's discussions as "constructive" and Mr Barnier went on to meet with the EU27 ambassadors who, the European Commission said, agreed to "intensify discussions over the coming days".

The prospects of a Brexit deal being agreed this month are "promising" following an breakthrough in talks, Nicky Morgan has said.

Of course, nothing has been confirmed yet- and all optimism should be cautious, because if Mr Johnson did indeed make such a huge concession, it's likely that Mr Varadkar also had to do so.

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Meanwhile, Mr Johnson will challenge MPs to back any deal he has secured from Brussels when parliament sits on a weekend next Saturday for the first time in nearly four decades, The Times has reported.

However, EU sources have been widely quoted as saying that Mr Johnson had suggested that there could not be a customs border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - a sudden departure from his previous position.
This gave the Tories' de facto coalition partners, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), an effective veto.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier briefed member states on the "constructive meeting" with UK Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay which took place earlier that day.

Mr Burleigh's initial claim that Barnier has been given the "green light" for such talks now seems uncertain, however, with a number of other reporters inflicting an abundance of mixed metaphors on observers by suggesting that the governments of the EU27 will not enter a "tunnel" with the British without being able to see a "landing zone" at the end of it.

Johnson called last week for the Irish backstop to be replaced with a plan that would see Northern Ireland remain in the European single market for goods but leave the customs union along with the rest of the UK.

"One thing is sure - Northern Ireland must remain fully part of the United Kingdom customs union and Boris Johnson knows it very well", he told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

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