UK plans to give Northern Ireland joint UK, EU status

A ferry arriving at the Port of Dover’s Eastern Docks in England

A ferry arriving at the Port of Dover’s Eastern Docks in England

The EU reportedly believes that Mrs May's latest idea would only postpone negotiations on a final settlement to main an open Irish border.

But it was dismissed as "fantastical" by anti-Brexit campaigners, while Liberal Democrats described it as "like something out of Alice in Wonderland".

The Brexit minister's plan is a revision of the "max fac" or "maximum facilitation" plan, the report said, citing a source.

With pressure mounting to agree on a position before a summit of European Union leaders on 28 June, May set up two working groups to find amendments to the schemes which could unite her feuding ministers. London has signed up to this but disagrees with the EU's means of achieving it.

"I can see the difficulty and intensity of this debate", he said. "Neither of these proposals are operational or acceptable to us".

But finding a practical solution for any customs checks needed after Brexit is proving elusive.

Mrs May secured DUP support for the plan, but it looks like she will head back to the drawin board.

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Asked about the plan, a DExEU spokesman said: "We have set out two viable future customs arrangements with the European Union and work is ongoing to refine these".

The EU and Dublin insist Britain's withdrawal treaty must lock in a backstop arrangement guaranteeing Northern Ireland will abide by EU regulations in case a future trade pact does not remove the need for border controls. "The creation of a buffer zone would merely move the problem away from the border and hide a hard border in a buffer zone".

"Once again this shows the lack of knowledge of border areas and the concerns they face - David Davis obviously didn't learn much on his flying visits". However, both parties failed to agree on how to avoid checks on goods once the United Kingdom has left the single market and customs union.

"The public must be given the final say on the deal, with the opportunity to Exit from Brexit".

"None of these proposals have been discussed with the DUP and at first examination they appear to be at best contradictory".

"The UK Government must urgently clarify its position and guarantee that Scotland will not lose out". Whilst the idea seems to be that movement can take place within the buffer zone, what happens to trade from outside the buffer zone when it crosses into that zone?

McGrane said his organisation was "aghast" that with time running out before Britain leaves the European Union next year, the government has still not set out clearly how it can avoid imposing a land border on the island of Ireland.

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