No Irish border deal but talks continue into night
‘Discussions ongoing’ in search for solution to suit DUP and Dublin
Theresa May was late last night engaged in a flurry of diplomacy, fuelling speculation that a Brexit agreement on maintaining a soft Irish border could be edging closer.
The announcement that European Council president Donald Tusk will make a statement on Brexit early today added to talk that the prime minister had made progress.
In the evening Mrs May spoke to European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker, after he had phoned Irish PM Leo Varadkar.
Mr Juncker’s chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said after the calls that an early morning meeting and “press point” was “possible”, but added: “We are making progress but not yet fully there. Talks are continuing throughout the night.”
A Number 10 spokesman also confirmed the calls, adding: “Discussions about taking forward the Brexit process are ongoing.”
A UK source said: “We’re not there yet.”
Under-pressure Mrs May had been hoping to make a new offer by today on the Irish border to satisfy both Dublin and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her government. A mooted agreement between the UK and EU on divorce issues including the Irish border, which would allow talks to progress to the future trade relationship, was torpedoed on Monday by the DUP.
The party objected to plans for “regulatory alignment” between Northern Ireland and the Republic to maintain a soft border between the two, arguing it would amount to the drawing of a new frontier with the UK mainland in the Irish Sea. The prime minister is under intense pressure to get leaders at the December 14 European Council summit to declare “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues so trade talks can begin.
DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Discussions are ongoing.”
Earlier, Ireland’s deputy premier Simon Coveney said the Dublin government would consider alternative proposals from London but stressed it would not countenance anything that fell short of the assurances it needs over the shape of the border post Brexit.