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    British Prime Minister Theresa May (File)

    EU to Pursue Customs Border in Irish Sea If No Deal On Brexit Reached - Reports

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    The European Union is mulling the creation of a customs border in the Irish sea, between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, in the event of a no-deal on Brexit, Reuters reported, citing a letter from UK Prime Minister Theresa May obtained by The Times newspaper.

    UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Thursday that negotiators would finalize a deal for his country’s exit from the European Union by the end of this month. He said he was "confident" that the two sides could reach a deal "within next three weeks," adding that reports of getting it done within seven days were "pushing it," according to The Guardian.

    Hunt, who was in Paris, stressed that the agreement was in the final stage and that working it out was in everyone’s interest.

    Meanwhile, May wrote to the leaders of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the small Northern Irish political party she relies on for her majority in parliament, saying that the EU is still pushing for a so-called "backstop to the backstop" which would keep the province in regulatory alignment with the Republic of Ireland to avoid a hard border, Reuters reported.

    In particular, May said she would never allow a divide between the province and Britain "to come into force".

    Meanwhile, a spokesperson for May's office said that the UK government would not agree to any deal establishing a hard border on the island of Ireland.

    The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, with the transition period set to end in December 2020. Nevertheless, London and Brussels still have not reached agreement on a number of issues, such as the Irish border and post-Brexit economic relations between the UK and the EU.

    READ MORE: May Says Brexit Deal '95% Ready' Amid Reports EU Seeks Irish Backstop Compromise

    In October, The Times newspaper, citing leaked UK Cabinet papers, reported that the Brexit transition period could be extended for several years beyond December 2020, not just for a couple of months, as May had said earlier.

    May's Brexit plan, adopted by the UK Cabinet in July, envisages the establishment of a UK-EU free trade area based on a "common rulebook" and the refusal to draw a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. While the plan is not welcomed by the European Union over concerns that it threatens the integrity of the EU's single market, some UK lawmakers also oppose the plan, as they prefer a more hard-line approach to Brexit.

    Meanwhile, more than 1 million people have signed a petition calling on the government to give UK citizens a final say on Brexit in a new referendum.

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    customs border, no deal, Brexit, Irish Sea, EU, United Kingdom
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