A wet border it is, then - that's the only deal which can emerge from the bunker where EU and British negotiators are in lockdown. Northern Ireland remains in the EU, to all intents and purposes, with the Border relocated to the Irish Sea.
After several years of contortions, we're back to where we were with Theresa May. Special status for the North. But when this agreement is concluded, watch it being presented as a triumph of political dexterity: the one and only Boris Brexit. Can't you just see him in toga and laurel wreath? Hail, Caesar!
A wet border is, of course, a nuanced construct; water is a shifting element. And this wet border is certain to mean a different relationship - a closer one - developing between north and south. Over time, it will prove beneficial for both.
Thursday's meeting with the British prime minister put a spring in Leo Varadkar's step.
He found talks "very positive and very promising", while Downing Street said the two leaders could "see a pathway to a possible deal". Possibilities are flowering all the way to Brussels, where the action is now.
An outbreak of entente cordiale, jolly good show and sound man yourself followed the Cheshire meeting. Such a turnaround is extraordinary considering that the EU, as recently as Wednesday, said Britain was pitching untested ideas.
For my money, a sure sign of progress is the change of tone in the 'Daily Telegraph', which is closely associated with the Johnson administration.
Consistently, it has run articles representing Ireland as an unreconstructed Brexit bogeyman - demonisation reminiscent of 19th-century 'Punch' cartoons. As recently as July, one of its writers claimed Mr Varadkar was the real threat to peace in Ireland.
But Thursday saw an astounding headline: "Northern Ireland is a burden on the rest of the UK. We can't let it get in the way of Brexit". The piece beneath it reads: "Northern Ireland has long been a millstone round the neck of the rest of the UK and to fail to take back our independence because of it would be an historic tragedy."
Furthermore, a columnist in yesterday's 'Daily Telegraph' referenced "the abominable, subservient way in which Ireland has been treated at key points in our shared and often troubled history". This is a 180-degree turn. Nigel Dodds, Sammy Wilson, et al must be feeling a chill wind down their backs.
Indeed, the newspaper is now scrutinising subvention costs to Northern Ireland, comparing them unfavourably with contributions to the EU, saying: "It is not widely known that it costs the UK more to support Northern Ireland than it does to be in the EU."
For unionism, this must feel like a punch to the solar plexus.
So, a deal looks promising. But we're not out of the woods yet. Brussels may be so keen to clear Brexit off its desk that something less than ideal is allowed through. Vigilance must be maintained.
However, Irish fears of being sold down the river - voiced in earlier stages of negotiations - have been misplaced. The DUP occupies that position now and the party must be squirming.
With a ticking clock, there is no time to waste. But both sides have good reason to reach agreement and one is certainly possible. After all, it's not a case of starting over from scratch. Much has been agreed already.
For example, the British accept that the North remains in the single market, tied to EU regulations. But movement has to take place regarding the EU customs union - the North has to remain in it to avoid infrastructure on the island of Ireland. This is the Irish baseline position. Otherwise, border controls threaten political, economic and social stability.
Some fudge on the customs union might be possible. We have no details yet regarding intended arrangements. But a border down the Irish Sea has to mean checks in Britain and not Ireland, unless someone makes the case for them taking place in transit on the Irish Sea.
There needs to be buy-in from both communities in the North about whatever is decided - their futures can't be decided for them without their say-so. Mr Varadkar spoke of "consent and democracy" after his meeting with Mr Johnson. What that means is unspecified but the detail will be crucial. A DUP veto is out, out, out.
No doubt, the DUP knows that. Its members are looking chastened these days. Is it possible Dominic Cummings launched a full-frontal assault on the party: either suck up the deal or a Border poll will be called? However, fair deal-making - deal-making with any hope of lasting - requires a face-saver for everyone, including the DUP. Usually, blushes are spared with grants and other financial supports.
At this point, we should bear in mind that doing a deal in Brussels and selling it in Westminster - parliament is sovereign, don't forget - are two different things, as Theresa May discovered. And British politics is highly factional currently.
Even supposing the Johnson administration has tied down DUP support, what of the United Kingdom's integrity? It's been cited often by some parliamentarians. Doesn't that matter after all? A wet border undermines it.
That could be viewed as a price worth paying to get Brexit done. But another hurdle exists. Remainers may vote down the Boris Brexit and force Mr Johnson to ask for an extension, followed by an election, to put a People's Vote on the table.
Furthermore, why would the Opposition allow the Tories to call a general election, having delivered a Boris Brexit? It's an enormous advantage for his party on the doorsteps.
And so to Stormont and how to restore the Assembly and Executive. We know this much: Sinn Féin wants to go back in. How do we know? Because it was ready to return in February 2018, busy preparing its base for compromise. It was the DUP which shied away at the last minute. Sinn Féin sees the institutions as an essential component in the transition towards reunification, its ultimate goal.
But the party can only return on the basis of genuine power-sharing and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. It knows full well it will suffer at the hands of its electorate if, for example, the petition of concern isn't reformed and the veto used to block progress.
Once back in business, Stormont and Leinster House need to have enhanced interaction. The Good Friday Agreement has never been fully functional in that regard. This will be followed, in the fullness of time, by joint authority in my view.
Once the dust settles, things can't revert to the way they were before. Nationalists and unionists alike have watched a British government disregard their interests and risk the peace process.
Loyalty is earned, not given as a right, and goes both ways.