THERE IS a sense of cautious optimism in the air today after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that yesterday's meeting with Boris Johnson has led to 'a pathway to a possible deal'.
Speculation has been rife as to what concessions could have been made in order for the impasse,which has prevailed for more than three years, to be broken.
Mr Varadkar has reiterated time and again that there will be no hard border in Ireland-- the offer of a deal from Mr Johnson last week was rejected on the grounds that there would be checks on goods-vehicles crossing between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Speaking to media yesterday after the meeting, Mr Varadkar said:
'It remains our position that there cannot be a hard border between North and South. We must continue to have a situation whereby the all-island economy can continue to deepen and function well.’
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) October 10, 2019
Now Irish media are suggesting that the 'pathway to a possible deal' most likely involves concessions from Mr Johnson with regards to the border, and that the UK/EU border will instead be in the Irish Sea, between Ireland and the UK, instead of on the island between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
This would be a major breakthrough and a cause for celebration in Ireland and certain parts of the UK-- already the pound has risen significantly against the dollar -- but Mr Johnson is set for huge backlash from the DUP if has indeed agreed for Northern Ireland to be treated differently to the rest of the UK.
In this situation, goods crossing between Northern Ireland and England, Wales or Scotland would require customs and regulatory checks, something which is bound to cause huge upset for the Unionist Party.
Of course, nothing has been confirmed yet-- and all optimism should be cautious, because if Mr Johnson did indeed make such a huge concession, it's likely that Mr Varadkar also had to do so.
The UK is due to leave the EU in 20 days.