03:25 GMT +317 October 2019
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    A demonstrator waves the national flag as people gather to protest against austerity policies and increases in water bills, according to local media, in central Dublin

    EU Prepares Significant Aid Package for Ireland - Reports

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    Senior Irish politicians and diplomats held talks with at least two of Boris Johnson's cabinet allies in recent days, Reuters reported, citing the Sunday Times newspaper. The European Union is secretly pushing Johnson to create a new Brexit plan in a bid to avoid a no-deal divorce with the United Kingdom, according to local media.

    According to the media report, German and French officials, as well as the Dutch and Belgian governments, have also established contact with Johnson's team and reportedly signaled an intention to strike a deal.

    The European Commission is drawing up a multibillion-pound aid package for Ireland to offset the possible economic damage of a potential no-deal Brexit, Reuters reported Monday, citing The Times newspaper.

    According to UK-based media quoting a senior EU diplomat, Brussels would "spend whatever was necessary" to support the Irish government through any disruption of trade, Reuters said.

    The Times report, however, did not specify the exact amount of the possible aid package, according to Reuters.

    A new UK prime minister will be announced on Tuesday, after some 160,000 Conservative Party members vote to choose between Johnson and UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Earlier, Johnson said that if he becomes prime minister he would push for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union on 31 October with or without a deal.

    The Irish border issue has been a stumbling block in the EU-UK Brexit talks. In November 2018, Brussels and London agreed on a Brexit deal, including a so-called backstop that would be put into practice if the sides failed to agree on all the terms of their relationship by the end of the Brexit transition period.

    The United Kingdom was unable to leave the European Union on 29 March as originally intended, however, after the withdrawal deal was voted down by UK lawmakers. The European Council gave the United Kingdom an extension until 31 October, with an option to leave earlier if the UK parliament passes a deal.

    The failure of the earlier deal led to the resignation of UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who spent the last two years seeking a Brexit compromise.

    On Monday, Tory leadership rivals  Jonson and Hunt declared that the Northern Ireland backstop was "dead" and promised to exclude it from any withdrawal deal they would negotiate with the European Union.

    Brussels will not, however, accept any plan to eliminate the Irish border backstop from the withdrawal agreement with London according to reports.

    The backstop would be used if the United Kingdom and the European Union cannot agree on all the terms of their relationship by the end of the Brexit transition period. The solution would remain in place until both the European Union and the United Kingdom decided it was no longer needed. The backstop in its present form would keep the United Kingdom in single customs territory with Brussels, while Northern Ireland would be aligned to some of the EU single market rules. This would help avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, but could lead to new checks of goods between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.


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    Brexit, Economy, aid package, Ireland, European Union
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