Theresa May ‘strikes secret Brexit deal over customs union’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

There will be an "exit clause" from the customs union in a bid to convince Brexiteers that it is not a permanent arrangement as May looks to secure enough votes to get the deal through parliament, said the paper.

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

The Sunday Times reported that preparations for a final deal were far more advanced than previously disclosed and could pave the way for a special UK/EU summit later this month and a possible vote in Parliament in December.

A Downing Street spokesman said May and Varadkar agreed "the intention was that the backstop should only be a temporary arrangement".

"The Democratic Unionist Party is rightly anxious about the future of the Union and many Conservatives are too".

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Insisting that negotiations are "ongoing" at a technical level, the Commission's chief spokesman summed up progress by telling reporters: "Not there yet".

On Sunday, The Times reported that sources say Prime Minister May had secured a so-called "concession" on the Irish border question with the European Union whereby the whole of the United Kingdom would remain in the bloc's Customs Union.

Mrs May is also on course to a situation where she could negotiate a Canada-style deal in the future, according to the Sunday Times.

The Conservative MP said that Tony Blair's failure to publish his own government's legal advice from its then attorney-general on the Iraq war meant that the Labour prime minister's reputation "never recovered".

Yet all the signs are that the European Union are not prepared to accept anything that would either put a time-limit on the backstop, or allow the United Kingdom to end it unilaterally.

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"This is the backstop", he added, saying the United Kingdom had agreed that it would apply "unless and until" a close future relationship eliminated any need for Border infrastructure and checks.

Basically, it is an insurance policy to make sure the current frictionless border between Northern Ireland and the Republic remains open no matter what happens in negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU.

"While we too hope the Northern Ireland backstop will never be required to be used, it will be required to be written down in legal text. That is why we are increasingly positive on the expectation of reaching a deal".

In a letter to Mrs May they say Parliament should not be bound by the 2016 vote any more than it should be by the 1975 referendum that took Britain into the European Union, especially when there are question marks over its validity.

More than 70 business leaders - from lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox and former J. Sainsbury PLC chief Justin King to Cobra Beer founder Karan Bilimoria and ex-chairman of Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC Simon Robertson - signed a letter arguing that both the government's current plans for Brexit, and a no-deal Brexit, would be bad for companies and jobs.

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