Britain agreed on Monday to keep Northern Ireland in “regulatory alignment” with the European Union after Brexit, Irish government sources said, raising hopes Prime Minister Theresa May can strike a deal in Brussels to start free trade talks.

After intensive negotiations in recent days, Britain made what the Irish sources called a clear commitment to keep economic rules on both sides of the new UK-EU land border across the island of Ireland similar enough to allow no frontier.

That is seen as a key way to avoid customs and other infrastructure which might jeopardize the peace in Northern Ireland. How far Britain would then be permitted to change rules on the mainland as Brexit supporters want was not immediately clear. May and her Northern Irish allies want no new regulatory barriers erected between the province and the rest of the United Kingdom.

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