Northern Ireland's DUP dismisses idea of joint UK, EU status

What now

What now

"It needs to happen two weeks from the summit", Coveney told the Irish Times newspaper, referring to a June summit of European Union leaders that is supposed to mark significant progress on the issue.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear that we can not and will not accept a customs border down the Irish Sea, and that we will preserve the integrity of the UK's common market. We await written proposals from the British side".

May's efforts to see the United Kingdom successfully leave the EU customs union has so far fallen under two categories; the "max fac" (maximum facilitation), which involves leaving the customs union, but using technology to avoid a hard border, and a customs partnership, which would see co-operation with the EU and the collecting of tariffs.

A Dexeu spokesman said the reports were "completely false", adding: "A significant amount of work and decision-making has gone into our no-deal plans, especially where it relates to ports, and we know that none of this would come to pass". Under this scenario, Northern Ireland will remain in the customs territory of the European Union until then, until a different decision.

He said the proposals would be in line with previous statements by May, and that a promised white paper policy document would be published in advance of the summit.

Britain and the European Union are aiming to strike an overall Brexit agreement by October, so parliaments in other European Union nations have time to ratify it before Britain leaves the bloc.

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney warned of an "uncertain summer" if there was no progress on agreeing the so-called "backstop" arrangement to prevent a hard border in the event of trade talks failing.

The province, which will share Britain's only land border with the EU after Brexit, would be forced to follow both EU and British customs and trade regulations, as the EU has argued there is no way for it to leave the bloc and trade freely with both. The government says it is aiming to get a deal, but still preparing for all scenarios, including a no deal outcome.

A source told the Times: "In the second scenario, not even the worst, the port of Dover will collapse on day one".

He told the Sunday Times: "They are frozen in the headlights".

"I don't recognise any bit of that at all".

In its foreword, former Tory chancellor Lord Lamont says many manufacturers "will continue to make their products to European standards", but Britain's services sector, which accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the economy, is "too important and globally-focused" to be a rule-taker from the EU.

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