Latest: Speculation of breakthrough on Irish border in Brexit talks

Update 8.59pm: There is fresh speculation of a breakthrough in the Brexit talks.

A government official told an event in Brussels that an agreement is "very close" with a deal possible within hours.

The official said border talks were "moving quite quickly," adding that the Government was "going to work over the next couple of hours with the UK government to close this off."

Irish, European and British officials are reportedly examining a new draft of text on the agreement reached earlier this week.

It is believed the new wording was put forward by London as the British Prime Minister Theresa May attempts to keep the DUP onside – while also placating Irish demands that there will be no return to a hard border following Brexit.

The EU Commission says talks aimed at reaching a deal will continue through the night.

The European Council President Donald Tusk says he will make a statement on Brexit early tomorrow morning.

The Commission President Jean Claude Juncker spoke with the Taoiseach and with the British Prime Minister this evening in a bid to reach a deal on the border.

Update 7.59pm: Latest: Theresa May still battling to agree Brexit deal on Irish border

Theresa May has not yet reached an agreement on a post-Brexit plan for the Irish border to push negotiations forward which satisfies the European Union, Ireland and the Democratic Unionist Party.

The announcement that European Council president Donald Tusk will make a statement on Brexit early on Friday morning fuelled speculation that the Prime Minister had made progress.

But a Government source said: "We're not there yet."

DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson said: "Discussions are ongoing."

European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker telephoned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and then Mrs May, his chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said.

He said an early morning meeting was "possible".

"We are making progress but not yet fully there. Talks are continuing throughout the night," he tweeted.

Update 5.54pm: Latest: European Council President Donald Tusk to make Brexit statement in the morning

The European Council President Donald Tusk will make a statement on Brexit early tomorrow morning.

Talks have been ongoing all week in a bid to reach a deal on the border with Northern Ireland, allowing Brexit talks to go to the next stage.

A Government spokesman said: "Matters are being considered as part of ongoing discussions involving the (EU negotiating) Task Force, the Irish Government and the British Government."

But he did not specifically confirm whether or not a new form of text had been tabled by UK negotiators.

A spokeswoman for Mr Tusk confirmed he would make a statement at 7.50am Brussels time (6.50am Irish time) but would not give any further details.

Update 1.43pm: 'No white smoke' on Brexit talks as Tánaiste says Irish Government's position not changing

A European official has said there is still "no white smoke" in Brexit talks amid a deadlock over the Irish border.

European officials say they are talking with all sides but there has been no breakthrough.

They added the deal will have to come this week, but talks could go as late as Sunday.

The sticking point is still the border.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald says there has to be assurances on Northern Ireland staying in the customs union and single market.

She said: "In the absence of that kind of clarity, in the absence of a deal that secures that very thing, then we are undoubtedly headed towards a border on the island of Ireland, the undermining of the Good Friday Agreement and everything else that might flow from that."

At Leaders Questions in the Dáil today, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney said the Irish Government’s position will not be changing.

"The core issues that Ireland got agreement on at the start of this week are not changing," he said.

"They are in the interests of this island and the relationships on it."

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald wants guarantees that the North will stay in the EU customs union and single market.

"In the absence of that kind of clarity, in the absence of a deal that secures that very thing, then we are undoubtedly headed towards a border on the island of Ireland," she said.


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