Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May secures 'secret Brexit deal' to prevent Irish Sea border - reports

The Prime Minister has secured concessions from Brussels in order to get a Brexit deal that prevents a hard border and that doesn't separate Northern Ireland off from the rest of the UK, a new report claims.

Number 10, however, dismissed the report as "speculation" but said good progress had been made  in the talks.

The Sunday Times reports Theresa May has secured a deal that will see the UK remain within a customs union with the EU.

The newspaper reports preparations for a deal are more advanced than have been anticipated with a detailed document in the works.

Since Brexit talks began the EU has insisted on an agreement which would see Northern Ireland remain part of the Customs Union and part of the single market in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic in the event of a no-deal.

Under the latest proposals, the EU would write a UK-wide backstop into the legally binding withdrawal agreement, meaning a backstop solely for Northern Ireland would not be needed.

The Times claims chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier revealed the concession on the Irish border at a private meeting in London last week which would see checks carried out at factories and shops rather than at any border.

The deal, it's claimed, would include an exit clause in order to appease those that would see the deal as a way of keeping the UK forever in the EU.

It also said good progress was made on the trade deal between the two which could secure a Canada-style agreement.

The Times said it was able to compile the deal after extensive contacts with dozens of ministers, advisers, civil servants and EU officials.

A Whitehall source told the Times the deal could be sold as a success for the Prime Minister, but that it would likely not go down well in the Republic.

"The PM will be able to say there’s no more backstop, we’ve got rid of that — success. It is UK-wide — success. There’s an exit mechanism — success. And you’ve got Canada. The small print is that Ireland is f*****," the source told the paper.

Downing Street officials dismissed the report as speculation pointing to the Prime Minister's previous statements good progress was being made in talks with the EU.

It's thought Theresa May could propose a date for an EU summit for the middle of the month for the leaders to come together to announce any deal with the Commons voting on it in December.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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