Britain agrees deal on Irish border: Reports
LONDON Britain has accepted that customs and trade rules in Northern Ireland will remain aligned with those in European Union (EU) member Ireland after Brexit, signalling a breakthrough in the withdrawal talks, media reports said yesterday.
Dublin has demanded a written commitment that there will be no regulatory divergence that would necessitate border checks on the island of Ireland after Britain leaves the EU's single market and customs union.
The demand risked holding up the first stage of Brexit talks between the EU and Britain, which London is hoping will move on to future trade ties at a summit of EU leaders later this month.
As British Prime Minister Theresa May arrived in Brussels for crunch talks with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, Ireland's RTE News and The Financial Times reported that Britain had bowed to Ireland's request.
RTE News said a text agreed over the past few days sets out that Britain would agree to maintain EU single market and customs union rules in British-controlled Northern Ireland after Brexit.
"In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will ensure that there continues to be no divergence from those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support North South cooperation and the protection of the Good Friday (peace) Agreement," the draft says.
The Financial Times reported that Britain was unhappy with the phrase "no regulatory divergence", as it suggests that Northern Ireland would have to accept all existing EU rules.
But it said a draft text referring to maintaining "regulatory alignment" had been agreed.
Mrs May has said Britain will leave the EU's customs union and single market when it quits the bloc in March 2019.
Her spokesman said yesterday that she would not accept any new barriers set up within Britain.
"The prime minister has been clear that the United Kingdom is leaving the EU as a whole and the territorial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom will be protected," he said. - AFP