Why Irish border deal is crucial to Brexit

Border agreements are still being decided in the move towards Brexit.

At around midday, the pound hit a day's high of 1.3523 against the dollar after news emerged that Westminster will concede on European Union trade rules for Northern Ireland.

Regulatory alignment could mean both Ireland and Northern Ireland following the same rules governing trade, to ensure that goods can continue to move freely across a "soft" border with no checks.

May, her Brexit minister David Davis and the prime minister's Brexit adviser Olly Robbins, will meet with EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, EU negotiator Michel Barnier and Junkcer's chief of staff, Martin Selmayr, for lunch.

The question of how to maintain a soft Irish border had emerged as the key sticking point to getting agreement from the European Union to move on to phase two in the Brexit negotiations.

The British government says that when it leaves the EU in March 2019, it will also leave the single market and the customs union.

Dublin has claimed the United Kingdom government has not yet tabled a serious or credible plan to avoiding a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit, if the United Kingdom quits the EU's single market and customs union.

The UK government has repeatedly insisted many of these questions can not be answered until the next stage of Brexit talks - on a transition period and a future EU-UK trading and customs relationship - is allowed to begin.

May was given the deadline of December 4 to table the offers before an European council summit on December 14, when EU leaders will decide if "sufficient progress" has been made to proceed to the next phase.

Ireland's deputy premier and foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney said the Dublin government's concerns over the post-Brexit border were set to be addressed fully.

But, asked if he expected an agreed text of written British assurances on Monday, Mr Coveney told RTE Radio: "Let's not run before we can walk here".

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who called for London to be offered access to the single market if Northern Ireland could have it, tweeted that the "clear solution to this government chaos" was for the whole of the United Kingdom to remain in the single market and customs union, this sidestepping the issue of where the border would be. "But at this stage it is very hard to make a prediction", said an official.

"I hope we are in a place this evening where Irish people north and south will get reassurance from the wording that is very close to being finalised now".

Varadkar said he would speak in public shortly.

"Hopefully there might be a breakthrough tomorrow".

  • Tracy Klein