Governments near new deal on post-Brexit border

‘Irish Times’ poll finds overwhelming public support for Varadkar’s tough line with UK

The Irish and British governments were moving towards a new agreement on the post-Brexit border on Thursday night which would satisfy both Dublin and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and overcome the roadblock in the Brexit negotiations.

Officials have been working on a new text of the agreement that collapsed at the last minute earlier this week following DUP objections.

The Irish Times understands a clarification being added relates to Northern Ireland not being isolated from the United Kingdom as a result of the Brexit process.

This has been sought by the DUP, while Dublin is insisting the deal keeps the promise to "maintain full alignment" of regulations between Northern Ireland and the Republic.


The European Commission has said that without agreement by the end of the weekend, it will not be possible for next week's summit of EU leaders to approve a move to the next phase of the negotiations after Christmas – a move sought by the British for months.

Officials in Dublin, London and Brussels have been working frantically to agree new language. The aim is to reconcile the Irish Government's absolute requirement for a "cast-iron" guarantee there will be no return to a hard border in the future with the DUP's insistence no commitments are given which could lead to divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Agreeing on language

British prime minister Theresa May may travel to Brussels on Friday to conclude a deal with commission president Jean Claude Juncker if the Irish, British and EU teams can agree on language.

Mr Juncker spoke to both Ms May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday. Mr Varadkar and Ms May also held a 15-minute phone call.

Donald Tusk, president of the European Council (the group of EU leaders which will meet next week), has scheduled a press conference for early on Friday.

Meanwhile, there is overwhelming public support for the strong line on Brexit pursued by the Government, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos poll finds.

Asked if Ireland should use its veto to stall the Brexit talks if Britain does not provide adequate assurances on the Border, 68 per cent are in favour of the Government using the veto. Just 13 per cent are against, with 19 per cent undecided.

Government veto

The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,200 voters aged 18 and over in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

The Government says it will not have to use a veto, as it enjoys the support of the other EU member states, though both the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney have repeatedly said they will not consent to the talks moving on to the next phase until the British have provided sufficient assurances on the Border.

Friday's poll backing the Government's stance comes after Thursday's results which showed strong gains in political support for Fine Gael following the public breakdown of an agreement with the British government on Monday.