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Irish border deal reported settled as May meets Juncker

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Tony Blair was one of the chief architects of the 1998 deal that ended the conflict in Northern Ireland. Stephen Lock for the National

An agreement that would commit Britain to maintaining "regulatory alignment" between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit would make it easier to avoid a hard border but limit the UK's ability to change its economic regulations to strike new trade deals across the world.

Britain is seeking to keep its options open, having rejected a commitment to leave Northern Ireland in a customs union with the EU or to keep the whole United Kingdom in one.

Mrs May hopes to achieve a breakthrough during her visit to Brussels to meet Mr Juncker and European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday.

Donald Tusk, the EU summit chair, tweeted ebulliently after speaking to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar that there was progress on the Irish issue to unblock UK-EU trade talks: "Tell me why I like Mondays!" the former Polish premier wrote. "It was reported as if it was true, and now it turns out it was propaganda from the Irish Government", he said.

Sterling soared higher on Monday afternoon amid optimism that Brexit talks will break the current deadlock and move onto topics like a future trade deal between the two sides.

"This is not a failure", Juncker added after a long negotiating lunch with British Prime Minister Theresa May. "But on a couple of issues some differences do remain which require further negotiation and consultation".

If a Brexit deal can be done that "effectively" keeps Northern Ireland in the single European market, there is "surely no good practical reason" why Scotland should not benefit from such an arrangement, the First Minister has said.

If she had ignored their concerns, there's little doubt that the party's 10 MPs would have sat on their hands and not supported the Conservatives in important votes on the EU Withdrawal Bill this week.

"Not every single question has to be answered but we need sufficient progress on these very sensitive issues". The pro-British Unionist party opposes any special status that could take Northern Ireland further from Britain and closer to the Republic of Ireland.

"And the problem between the Republic and Northern Ireland is a effect of the British decision not only to leave the EU but also the single market and the customs union".

"I still hope this matter can be concluded in the coming days", he said.

Ahead of the meeting, a source close to the discussions on the Irish border told Sky News: "There's been some progress on the wording from both sides, but a bit of a distance to go".

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