A DEAL on how to manage the Irish border after Brexit could be agreed in a matter of hours, according to an Irish official in Brussels.
An agreement appeared to be in place on Monday before the DUP vetoed it, adamant Northern Ireland must leave the European Union on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom.
Prime Minister Theresa May was forced to concede no border deal had been reached, but hoped to have the issue settled by the end of the week so that Brexit negotiations could progress to the second phase.
Reuters has now reported that an Irish official believes a deal is in sight.
They quoted the official as telling a British Irish Chamber of Commerce event in Brussels that: “It is moving quite quickly at the moment. Negotiations are continuing.
“I think we are going to work over the next couple of hours with the UK Government to close this off.
“I say hours because I think we are very close.”
Monday’s talks broke down after the DUP – who prop up May’s minority Tory government through a ‘confidence and supply’ deal – vetoed a proposed border agreement.
Party leader Arlene Foster, who claimed not to have seen the text of the proposed agreement until just before May’s meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Monday, said there should be no ‘regulatory divergence’ for Northern Ireland in any deal.
“We have been very clear,” she said, “Northern Ireland must leave the European Union on the same terms as the rest of the United Kingdom and we will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separate Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the UK.”
The BBC meanwhile has reported that new language for a draft Brexit deal for the Irish border has been proposed in talks between the UK, Ireland and the EU Commission.
It adds that the draft has been shared with the DUP.
Fuelling speculation over an imminent deal, European Council President Donald Tusk has scheduled a press briefing on Brexit for 6.50am on Friday.