Possible Brexit fix: keep Northern Ireland in UK customs but do checks in Irish sea - EU sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told member states that Britain has changed its position to now accept that the proposed replacement to the backstop cannot erect a customs border on the island of Ireland, a diplomat and an official with the bloc said.

“On customs, they admitted that the solution cannot result in the creation of a border in Ireland,” the diplomat said, adding this was the reason Barnier presented to national envoys in Brussels to justify going into intensified talks with Britain over the weekend.

Separately, two senior EU diplomats told Reuters the possible solution could include two elements: keeping Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom’s customs union and, at the same time, ensuring that customs and regulatory checks were carried out together.

Under a recent UK proposal, the regulatory border would run in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Britain. The sources said they understood that customs checks could be carried there as well under the plan now under discussions.

That marked a change from the latest EU-UK discussions when London proposed to do dispersed customs checks across the whole island of Ireland, which the bloc rejected as unworkable and not offering enough protection to its single market.

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams