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Prime Minister Theresa May has said Britain will leave the EU's customs union allowing the country to forge its own trade deals around the world.

Theresa May has again insisted Britain will be leaving the customs union, amid reports the United Kingdom could apply EU tariffs beyond the end of the Brexit transition.

Arriving at the EU Western Balkans summit in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, Mrs May denied reports of a climbdown, but following talks with Leo Varadkar, European Council president Donald Tusk and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, she confirmed that the UK's alternative "backstop" proposal would be produced "in due course".

May repeated her three objectives - to pursue an independent trade policy, ensure as frictionless trade with the European Union as possible and avoid disruption between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The move was agreed by Mrs May's Brexit "war cabinet" on Tuesday, despite reservations from Brexiteers including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.

The warning has fuelled suspicions held by cabinet Brexiteers, particularly Mr Johnson, who met the former prime minister Gordon Brown yesterday to discuss girls' education around the world, that the European Union is trying to make negotiations on a customs deal as hard as possible.

The continuing disarray in the British cabinet and the uncertainty surrounding the position Prime Minister Theresa May will ultimately adopt means that the Irish side has to be prepared for every eventuality ahead of the Brussels summit.

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The Taoiseach has made the hard border issue a "red line" topic for Brexit - but the British government are yet to come up with a solution which suits both the Irish and the Brexit terms.

At the end of last month, EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said there could be no Brexit withdrawal agreement without the backstop option for the Irish border.

The tariffs govern the duties levied on goods arriving in the customs union, the EU's trading bloc, which Britain is now a member of.

He added: "It remains the Northern Ireland secretary's view that a majority of people in Northern Ireland continue to support the current political settlement, and that the circumstances requiring a border poll are not satisfied".

He said the SDLP was committed to "delivering a new inclusive Ireland" but unionism needed to be persuaded about the benefits of Irish unity.

Serious legal obstacles to the complex "customs partnership" plan could therefore emerge, and the government would not have time to resolve them before Brexit day, Mr. Davis has reportedly pointed out.

Until recently, "backstop" was a reference to the UK's government commitment in December 2017 for a customs solution that would help to secure an open border in Ireland even if negotiations failed.


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