EU and UK negotiators are close to a breakthrough on the draft of a Brexit deal but are still struggling with disputes over fishing rights and the how to end “backstop” arrangements for the Irish border, according to EU diplomats.
At a briefing for ambassadors in Brussels on Friday evening, the Financial Times reports that EU negotiators said there was broad consensus with London on the structure of an exit treaty and Irish border “backstop”, which the two sides ideally aim to seek political approval for next week.
This includes three options to avoid a hard border in Ireland: a successor agreement; an extension of Britain’s transition; and a new “backstop” plan including a customs union for the whole UK. A decision point would come around July 2020, depending on progress in trade talks, and then regularly reviewed.
While outlining the tentative compromises under discussion, Sabine Weyand, the EU’s deputy chief negotiator, warned diplomats that there remained significant obstacles to overcome.
One particular concern is whether Theresa May’s cabinet would accept a joint mechanism to decide on options for the Irish border, so any customs union can be viewed as temporary.