4, November 2018
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office has dismissed as “speculation” a newspaper report that suggests an all-UK customs deal will be written into the legally binding agreement governing Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
A spokesman at May’s office said Sunday that a report in the Sunday Times suggesting that the EU had agreed to include the entire United Kingdom in its customs union after Brexit was not entirely true.
“This is all speculation. 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,” said the spokesman.
The EU and Britain are at odds over how to treat the border between Ireland, an EU state, and Northern Ireland, a UK province, after Brexit so that there will be no return to a hard border on the island.
May has resisted EU’s plan for including Northern Ireland in its customs union for a two-year transition period and beyond that until a permanent solution is found for trade.
The premier says that will separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, insisting the EU could instead include the entire UK in the customs union as an interim solution.
British housing minister James Brokenshire said on Sunday that differences still remained on the Irish border, saying British and EU negotiators had yet to finalize a “backstop” arrangement.
“That very much remains our focus and attention in getting that deal,” Brokenshire told the BBC.
May relies on Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in her minority government. The DUP has threatened that it would stand against any Brexit deal that would include Northern Ireland in EU’s customs union.
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