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How much regulatory divergence can we have within the UK?

Open Europe's Henry Newman examines what proposals for a Northern Irish-specific backstop on regulations might mean for future regulatory divergence within the UK.

The ever well-sourced Tony Connelly of RTE suggests that the EU is willing to commit itself to forming a Customs Union with the UK post-Brexit. However this commitment to negotiate a UK-wide customs arrangement would be included in the Withdrawal Agreement, but the formation of a UK-EU customs union would require a separate treaty (and be subject to negotiation).

At one level, this development could be seen as taking both sides closer to resolving the backstop conundrum. Yet many issues remain. For a start, the EU are not saying this would obviate the need for a Northern Ireland-only backstop in the withdrawal agreement. The UK view is to try to seek to remove the need for the backstop, and if possible to avoid agreeing to one. But it’s possible that this doesn’t achieve that, and so is more of a bridge to a potential future arrangement.

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