Ireland 'would block United Kingdom demand to quit Irish backstop agreement'

Theresa May’s ‘secret Brexit deal’ with EU

David Davis pointed out that Britain's attorney general Geoffrey Cox reportedly said that "any Northern Ireland-only arrangements for customs after Brexit could mean the Province was "torn out of the UK" and leave it "controlled by the EU".

It is said that the Prime Minister hopes the agreement will placate remain-backing Tories and win over some Labour MPs.

However, May's former Brexit Secretary has said she must publish legal advice on any deal ahead of a Commons vote, so MPs are fully briefed.

Her plan would avoid the need for a hard border in Northern Ireland, which has always been the main sticking point in negotiations.

Speaking at a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in Dublin, Mr Coveney said he believed "it is possible to get a deal in November", adding: "This border issue is complicated to resolve. but I think we're very close to resolving it".

Last night Downing Street sought to play down expectation that a customs union deal was close to being agreed.

According to the Sunday Times, the agreement would include an "exit clause" aimed at convincing Brexiteers that remaining in the customs union would be temporary.

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The Sunday Times reported that the EU would allow the creation of a whole-UK customs union that would avoid the need for a Northern Ireland border "backstop" that has been at the heart of the impasse in negotiations.

Under the banner headline "Revealed: Theresa May's secret Brexit deal", The Sunday Times said the European Union accepts that regulatory checks on goods can be carried out in factories and shops rather than at the border.

But expectations are rising that United Kingdom negotiator Olly Robbins will be pressing hard to finalise a deal in Brussels this week, to set the scene for a special Brexit summit later in the month to secure the approval of the leaders of the 27 remaining member states.

The newspaper also said May is on course to secure an agreement on a "future economic partnership" that would let Britain keep open the prospect of a free trade accord similar to the one Canada has with the EU.

"The prime minister has been clear that we are making good progress on the future relationship and 95% of the withdrawal agreement is now settled and negotiations are ongoing", the spokesman also said, as quoted by the Sky News.

Mr Coveney's spokesperson said the European Union had been united through the Brexit process and the UK had given written commitments that the Withdrawal Agreement would give a legal guarantee of no return to a hard Border in Ireland in any circumstance.

He added: "We hope a deal can be done but we're not there yet".

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