Theresa May ‘strikes secret Brexit deal over customs union’

Preparation Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney at the Brexit event

UK Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said on Sunday that recent report claiming that May had agreed with the European Union to keep the United Kingdom in the Customs Union, avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, were "speculation".

Reports of a secret Brexit deal come just as more than 70 business leaders signed a letter calling for a second referendum after warning that a bad deal could threaten the United Kingdom jobs industry.

However, reaction to the putative deal - estimated at 50 pages rather than a brief, bullet-pointed document - has been mixed, with Cabinet sources saying parts "could have been written by Jacob Rees-Mogg".

Ireland's prime minister has told Theresa May in a hastily arranged phone call that he cannot allow the United Kingdom to unilaterally decide when to terminate the Irish backstop, creating the possibility that Britain could be tied in a customs union with the EU for the long term.

The UK prime minister has reportedly secured "secret" concession from European Union over Northern Irish border issue.

"These ideas are not backstops at all and don't deliver on previous United Kingdom commitments".

Sunday Times reports that under plans devised by May and EU negotiators, the whole of the United Kingdom would effectively remain within a customs union with the bloc after Brexit.

Writing in the Sunday Times, David Davis said: "We need cards laid on the table so that we can form a judgment". There's an exit mechanism - success.

Last night Downing Street sought to play down expectation that a customs union deal was close to being agreed. "The small print is that Ireland is f*****".

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A spokesperson said: 'The prime minister has been clear that we are making good progress on the future relationship and 95 percent of the withdrawal agreement is now settled and negotiations are ongoing'.

Last week the Irish prime minister said Brexit was fraying relations between Ireland and Britain.

Mr Howlin said he was concerned Ireland had been "boxed into a corner where the backstop issue is the one remaining issue" and faced incredible pressure as a result.

Junior minister Damien English dismissed the suggestion that Ireland was "going to be shafted", insisting it was "not true".

"I am extremely confident we will reach an imminent deal", Glen told a financial services conference in London.

The UK statement did not refer to the Irish position that the mechanism could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop.

Mr Brokenshire, appearing on television, was asked if a deal was close, replying: "Well, we want to get that deal, we're obviously working hard to see that that happens.

He recalled the prior commitments made that the backstop must apply "unless and until" alternative arrangements are agreed".

Under the EU's proposal, Northern Ireland would remain in the customs union and in the single market for goods.

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