Several top ministers anxious United Kingdom could stay in EU customs union indefinitely

Theresa May looking isolated in Salzburg

Theresa May looking isolated in Salzburg

The EU has launched a direct sales pitch to Northern Ireland businesses in an attempt to drive a wedge between the Democratic Unionist party and Theresa May over the backstop solution for the Irish border in Brexit negotiations.

Can Theresa May risk calling Arlene Foster's bluff? Policing of the deal and agreeing rules on produce such as camembert cheese and Parma ham that is protected inside the European Union against imitations from elsewhere needed more polishing, he added.

In a series of tweets, Mr Johnson said that the deal would keep the United Kingdom in the customs union and Northern Ireland in the single market, and would mean increased checks on goods travelling between the province and the British mainland.

Barnier described how the EU's backstop proposal would organise customs and Value-Added Tax, regulatory and sanitary checks between the United Kingdom and the EU.

For industrial goods, he said checks could be done by "market surveillance authorities", and on-site in the companies.

One key obstacle remaining is the Irish border issue - on how to keep the new EU-UK land border with Northern Ireland open as it becomes the EU's new external border on the island of Ireland.

MORE: We've come so far - now for the big push He said: "Nearly two and a half years on from the referendum, we are, both on the European Union deal, and on other post Brexit trade deals, still lost in campaign mode on fantasy island".

In addition, Northern Ireland would remain under large parts of single market regulations, requiring enhanced checks on products arriving from Britain, particularly agricultural goods.

The 27 European Union states will get an update on the negotiations at a meeting of national ambassadors, without Britain, on Friday evening.

Still, diplomatic sources on both sides of the talks told Reuters that "it was going well" and that Brexit negotiators locked away in Brussels this week were "making headway" specifically on the Irish issue.

He said no deal would "quite simply be a disaster for business in Northern Ireland", where consumers already have half the disposable income of households in Britain. That would be to finalise work on a declaration of close future ties with Britain that would also be part of the Brexit package. Michael Russell will be there representing the Scottish Government and is expected to once again sound the alarm about the damage to Scotland's economy a hard or no-deal Brexit would do. He called British Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab "able and highly intelligent".

"That is why the no-deal is not and has never been our (preferred) scenario, even if our responsibility is to be prepared", he said. Up to 80 Tories are also reportedly considering voting it down.

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