Customs union deal just speculation, says Downing Street
Theresa May: speculation over a Brexit deal
Downing Street is playing down a weekend report that Prime Minister Theresa May is about to secure a deal with Brussels to keep Britain in a customs union.
The Sunday Times reported that Mrs May was close to an agreement that would avoid the need for a hard border in Northern Ireland.
According to the newspaper the PM is optimistic that her plan will convince some remainer Conservatives and swithering Labour MPs to back the deal which includes a future economic partnership (FEP) with Brussels that would give Britain the green light to pursue a free trade deal similar to Canada.
However, a Downing Street source told the Reuters news agency: “This is all speculation. 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.”
UK housing minister James Brokenshire said on Sunday there was still an issue around Northern Ireland in the Brexit talks, referring to a yet-to-be finalised ‘backstop’ arrangement which would prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland if no better solution can be found.
The Sunday Times said it had been told that talks over a final deal were far more advanced than previously indicated, with a 50-page document likely to be published, rather than the five-page plan many were expecting.
Sources close to EU negotiator Michel Barnier revealed that a “major concession” had been made on the Irish border during a meeting in London last week that will see regulatory checks on goods carried out at factories and shops rather than being conducted at the border.
A special summit is understood to have been pencilled in for later this month to agree the final details of a deal.
Mra May is set to discuss the proposals with her Cabinet on Tuesday.