Brexit: Hopes of breakthrough rise as Ireland talks up deal chances

Hopes of a breakthrough in Brexit talks continued to rise as Ireland said the chances of a deal were good.

Campaigners and dogs join yesterdays Wooferendum March in London to demand a new Brexit vote. Picture: PA

As the upbeat mood in the EU increased, hardline Tory Brexiteers softened their stance in order to try and get Prime Minister Theresa May to abandon her Chequers proposals in favour of a Canada-style free trade deal.

Following on from positive remarks from European Council president Donald Tusk that an agreement could be reached within weeks, Ireland’s deputy prime minister Simon Coveney talked up the chances of an accord.

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He told Sky News: “The withdrawal treaty is already about 90 per cent agreed in terms of text, the issues that have not been signed off yet relate predominantly to Ireland and what is needed now is the two negotiating teams need to lock themselves in a room for the next ten days or so.”

Mr Coveney said the chances of a deal being cut were “good” ahead of a crunch EU summit on 17 October.

The comments came as prominent anti-EU campaigners such as Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Sunday Telegraph they are ready to compromise in order to achieve a free trade deal with Brussels, rather than the closer relationship set out by Mrs May

Such a move would see them back proposals allowing EU officials to be stationed at UK ports after Brexit, and support the government enforcing EU rules on goods exported to the bloc from UK firms, the newspaper said.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Duncan Smith said allowing EU officials at UK ports, as happens with Eurotunnel, would answer concerns about the Irish border.

He wrote: “We can... [conduct] regulatory and customs checks together in a way that respects the EU’s single market, by building on systems already in place at the Channel Ports.

“The UK has long had arrangements with France under the Le Touquet Treaty where passports are checked by French officers at Dover and UK officers in Calais.

“The UK should seek to build on this by agreeing a Le Touquet-plus system with the EU.

“Any customs or regulatory checks could be made at juxtaposed controls with information-sharing and cooperation between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

“This would not simply answer concerns about keeping the Northern Ireland border open, it would also ensure the channel ports continue to provide as frictionless trade as possible.”

The proposed compromise came as fellow leading Tory Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin said he was not threatening to bring down the Government if Mrs May forced through a Brexit deal on the back of Labour votes in the House of Commons.

The comments followed a report in the Sunday Times that a group of Tory MPs was prepared to vote against 
the government on the 29 October Budget unless Mrs May toughened her stance with Brussels.

Sir Bernard said: “I don’t know of any Conservative MP who has any intention of voting against the government in the Budget.”