Coveney and Varadkar reject idea of time-limited backstop

Coveney and Varadkar reject idea of time-limited backstop

Brexit negotiations are continuing, Communities Secretary James Brokenshire has insisted amid reports that major concessions had been made by Brussels.

Although there has been no outward sign of a Brexit breakthrough, Irish and British officials said they are increasingly optimistic that a solution can be found.

Ireland Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said today he is open to the idea of a review of any so-called Irish backstop arrangement, as long as Britain could not decide to kill off the temporary measure.

However, Brussels is refusing to agree to an end date or mechanism that would allow the United Kingdom to pull out of the arrangement, meaning that an agreement is unlikely to be reached this week. But that goal has been complicated by May's intention to take Britain out of the EU customs union and single market.

The backstop would kick in at the end of the transition period - which starts on 29 March and ends on 31 December 2020 - if a final deal on trade and other matters is agreed.

The rapid pace of the negotiations requires the British government to adopt a "war cabinet" approach.

British trade minister Liam Fox said on Tuesday it was "impossible" to say whether a Brexit deal could be reached with the European Union this month or next, but that Britain wanted an agreement, and a deal is better than no deal.

May later reiterated to Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz that she believed a withdrawal accord was 95 percent complete, and was "confident" of a deal on the Northern Irish backstop.

The leader of the Best for Britain campaign for a second referendum, Eloise Todd, said: "When the history of Brexit is written in a few years' time the backstop and the UK's decisions around it will be held up as an example of how not to negotiate".

With just five months to go until it exits the EU, Britain's divorce talks are at an impasse, fuelling huge uncertainty among businesses and causing the value of sterling to see-saw on any news about a possible breakthrough in the talks.

A Downing Street spokeswoman added: "The Prime Minister is clear we are leaving the customs union".

"We are committed to everything we have agreed to in the joint report and we will ensure there is no border on the island of Ireland", she told the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in London on Monday.

But Britain's Conservative government and its Northern Irish ally, the Democratic Unionist Party, will not accept that because it would mean customs and regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. Brussels rejected her plan to let mainland Britain, too, enjoy special access to the European Union market - but the two sides have since come closer on a possible plan.

But the government's Brexit department stated that they are confident there will be a deal that works for businesses - and reiterated their stance against a People's Vote.

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