Negotiators from the UK and European Union have come to an agreement on the highly contentious Northern Ireland backstop, in one of the most significant breakthroughs for Brexit talks in months.
The UK pound surged on the news of a deal, hitting a 7-month high against the euro at €1.15, and spiking just above $1.30 versus the US dollar.
The future of the border in Northern Ireland has been the last major outstanding issue to be settled amid disagreements over how to avoid physical checks until a future trading relationship with the bloc is determined.
According a range of media reports, from the BBC to Irish national state broadcaster RTÉ, both sides of the negotiating table have agreed on a solution for the border on a technical level.
RTÉ said that the text provides for just one backstop to prevent a hard border, and will come in the form of a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement that will include specific provisions for Northern Ireland. These provisions will “go deeper on the issue of customs and alignment on the rules of the single market than for the rest of the UK,” RTÉ reported.
A range of reports say that a special cabinet meeting will be held at 2pm local time on Wednesday (14 November), as prime minister Theresa May seeks support from politicians. She is, however, expected to have one-on-one meetings this evening.
A spokesperson for Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Conveney said on Tuesday evening that negotiations “are ongoing and have not concluded. Negotiators are still engaged and a number of issues are outstanding. We are not commenting further on leaks in the media.”
The European Commission similarly insisted that a deal had not yet been finalised, even as an EU diplomat told Yahoo Finance UK that preparations for an emergency summit of EU leaders were being made behind the scenes.
EU ambassadors were due to meet tomorrow to discuss the bloc’s preparations for a no-deal Brexit, but they will now also be briefed on the state of play in negotiations .
It is not yet known how May will square the proposals with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), whose 10 lawmakers prop up her government in the House of Commons.
On Tuesday evening, the leadership of the DUP briefed journalists in Westminster on the party’s opposition to the proposed withdrawal agreement, as did MPs from the right-wing European Research Group, which is led by Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The DUP has long been opposed to a Northern Ireland-specific backstop, since it could result in Northern Ireland being more closely aligned with the EU’s customs and trade rules than the rest of the UK.
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