EU leaders are preparing to offer a two-year Brexit transition deal as early as January after negotiators said that they were close to a breakthrough over the Northern Ireland border.
British officials tabled proposals this week to avoid a “hard border” in Ireland that could unblock the last remaining major obstacle to a deal, The Times understands.
In return the EU will pledge at a summit in Brussels next month to speed up approval for a transition deal that maintains Britain’s present relationship with the EU, reassuring businesses that might otherwise begin implementing plans for a hard Brexit.
Sources in Dublin said that there was “movement” on the issue and growing confidence that a deal could be reached before the summit on December 14-15.
The British proposal is understood to commit the government to work towards “avoiding regulatory divergence” in Ireland after Brexit even if the rest of the UK moves away from European rules. This would involve the government devolving a package of powers to Northern Ireland to enable customs convergence with the Irish Republic on areas such as agriculture and energy.I'm not convinced. If Northern Ireland develops customs arrangements which are different from those which apply to the rest of the UK, it stands to reason that there would need to be controls on the passage of goods between the rest of the UK and Northern Ireland. Otherwise, the chlorinated chicken imported from the US into Britain could leak into Northern Ireland and thence into the EU.