Brexit deal 'within reach' says Barnier

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The Irish backstop measure, created to ensure no new border emerges between Ireland and Northern Ireland, is supposed to be temporary until a UK-EU trade deal can be agreed, and Theresa May pledged earlier this year that the arrangement would expire "at the very latest by the end of December 2021".

For customs and VAT, Barnier said, "we propose using the existing customs procedures to avoid doing checks at the transit points". She must negotiate a deal that is acceptable to the European Union, her own Cabinet, to backbench Tory MPs, and the DUP, groups which have diametrically opposed interests.

It comes after East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson warned his party would withdraw support from the government if it did not approve of the Brexit deal.

Barnier said Brexit would trigger the need for customs, Value-Added Tax and compliance checks with EU standards between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event that a planned "backstop" were triggered because a future EU-UK trade deal was not sufficient in itself to ensure the land frontier was not a "hard border".

The work and pensions secretary said she was "fully, 100% behind the prime minister" without endorsing her proposal for future trade with the EU.

Media captionHelen Grant on the DUP: "I think they are bluffing".

Mr Blair also said: "I am aware that it is always a good thing to blame me literally for everything".

As reported by the UK Telegraph, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is set to ask her cabinet to push through a customs union agreement on Brexit, as May's opponents threaten to tear down her government.

He added: "Agreement is within reach if we have the negotiations on October 17 at the next council meeting".

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She repeated that Britain wanted a new trade deal by the end of December 2021 at the latest.

However, TUV leader Jim Allister said it is "imperative" that Mrs Foster's party "stands its ground", adding: "My profound differences with the DUP are well known but on the seminal issue of Brexit it is imperative, both in the national interest and Northern Ireland's interest, that the flagitious European Union backstop - and the Government's flirtation with it - is thwarted".

In a move seen by some as a warning shot, DUP MPs failed to back the British government in voting against a Labour amendment to an Agriculture Bill outlining post-Brexit reforms last night.

First, the good. Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, gave a speech saying that a deal could be done as early as next week.

"I understand why such procedures are politically sensitive", he said, but added "Brexit was not our choice, it is the choice of the United Kingdom".

The EU and United Kingdom have agreed that these checks "cannot be performed at the border" and the EU proposes to carry them out "in the least intrusive way possible", he said.

"We wouldn't let the Conservative Party tell us who should lead our party and I think it would be darn cheeky of us to say who should lead theirs", Mr Wilson said.

"If people are sitting in cabinet they either support the government's policy or they don't sit in cabinet", Sir John said.

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