European Union says Brexit deal ‘within reach’ but work remains | Lexington Herald Leader

Pro-European demonstrators wave flags made up of the EU flag and British Union flag
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Chris Ratcliffe  Bloomberg

Foster has said that is part of her "blood red lines" over Brexit.

The 27 remaining members of the European Union have might delay work on fleshing out their proposal for strong trade ties after Brexit and will instead focus on their own preparations this week, including contingencies for a "no-deal" scenario - given the profound divisions within May's camp over the terms of Brexit.

"My estimate is that there are at least 40 colleagues who are not going to accept a "half in, half out" Chequers deal or indeed a backstop that leaves us in the internal market and the customs union".

But he made clear that the European Union envisages a deal involving new customs and regulatory checks on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland, including health and sanitary inspections for 100% of animals and animal products arriving in ports like Larne and Belfast from the rest of the UK.

She told reporters: "There can not be barriers to trade in the United Kingdom internal market".

But one European Union diplomat was upbeat, saying the divorce deal, or withdrawal agreement, could be concluded by Monday and that officials were working on a proposal to avoid Britain having to come up with a separate backstop plan as a possible solution.

Reports had suggested that deadlock over the so-called "backstop" arrangements for Ireland could be broken by permitting checks on exports from the mainland to the north, but not in the opposite direction.

Speaking after her meeting with Michel Barnier in Brussels, Mrs Foster said her party needs to see the legal text of any agreement to check it against its red line, which rules out any extra barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

A "backstop" solution to avoiding a hard border in Ireland is the major outstanding issue but a new British proposal has sparked optimism in Brussels that a Brexit deal is "very close".

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But on actually getting a deal, he said: "We've always been clear we would aim for the October council but there would be leeway, that it might slip into November".

His letter came just hours after International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt refused to give her explicit backing to Mrs May's Chequers blueprint, adding further pressure on the Prime Minister.

Mrs May told the regular weekly Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street that talks to finalise a withdrawal deal were continuing "on an intensive basis".

"The Fixed-Term Parliaments Act sets out the circumstances for a confidence vote", the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

The EU wants Northern Ireland effectively to remain in the single market and the customs union to avoid the need for customs checks until there is a final free trade deal between the United Kingdom and the EU.

The party's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson later explicitly warned the Government against doing a deal that kept Northern Ireland in the Single Market, telling the Telegraph it could not support "any deal which includes such economically and constitutionally damaging arrangements".

As part of the EU, Britain benefits from seamless trade with the bloc, its biggest trading partner.

The draft Withdrawal Agreement is now 90% complete, Ireland's deputy prime minister Simon Coveney said on Sunday.

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