UK ministers head to Dublin, Belfast as Brussels said to compromise on Brexit

LONDON, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) — As two British government ministers travelled to Ireland for key talks Friday, media in London said European Union (EU) Brexit negotiators are said to be preparing a compromise on the Northern Ireland border issue.

With weeks to go before the EU and Britain need to agree a draft deal for their post-Brexit relationship, the border between Northern Ireland and the neighboring Irish Republic remains the biggest hurdle to cross.

The Independent in London said negotiators in Brussels hope a compromise will break the deadlock in the floundering talks.

The Financial Times in its report Friday said EU negotiators are eyeing a customs union arrangement that would not remove all checks on the Irish sea, such as those on certain animal products.

British government officials have indicated, says the FT, that they are willing to accept such regulatory checks and do not see them as a red-line in the same way as customs checks.

Brussels is said to be willing to include plans for a “bare-bones” customs union as part of a Brexit withdrawal agreement. It would ease the need for checks at Irish sea ports, according to media reports.

Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected any arrangement that imposes different rules within the UK, insisting no British prime minister would tolerate any deal that creates a divide.

Any eventual deal would have to navigate its way through a House of Commons where a large contingent of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs say they will oppose any deal that keeps Britain tied to EU trade and customs rules.

The 10-strong group of Democratic Unionist Party MPs, the Northern Ireland party that has an arrangement to support May’s minority government, also say they will resist customs checks in the Island of Ireland.

Britain’s Brexit secretary Dominic Raab travelled to the border area at Warrenpoint Port in Northern Ireland to meet local business people before heading for talks in Belfast.

Meanwhile Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Britain’s Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington were in Dublin at a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC).

Raab faced criticism for failing to meet local politicians in Northern Ireland at Warrenpoint, with some accusing the minister of “running away”.

Westminster MP Chris Hazzard who represents the Northern Ireland constituency of South Down, said he was not given the opportunity to engage with Raab. Hazzard accused Raab of acting like a “thief in the night”.

Political commentators say negotiators from both London and Brussels have held several meetings this week to discuss issues to be resolved ahead of Britain’s planned exit from the EU next March.

Two days ago Raab said he expects a deal on the UK’s exit from the EU to be agreed within three weeks.

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