Abstract Nucleon-nucleon scattering phase shifts and deuteron properties are studied in the non-relativistic quark cluster model. The quark cluster model is modified to include chiral symmetry. This reduces the number of parameters. The σ meson is exchanged between quarks and not as in earlier versions between nucleons. The charge monopole, quadrupole and magnetic-dipole form factors of the deuteron in this microscopic meson-quark cluster model are calculated. The deuteron wave function is derived from a microscopic 6-quark Hamiltonian which, in addition to a quadratic confinement potential, includes the one-pion and the one-gluon exchange potentials between quarks. The electromagnetic current operators are constructed on the quark level, i.e., the photon is coupled directly to the quarks. Aside from the one-body impulse current, pionic and gluonic exchange current corrections are included. Due to the Pauli principle on the quark level, new quark interchange terms arise in the one-body and two-body current matrix elements, that are not present on the nucleon level. While these additional quark exchange currents are small for low momentum transfers, we find that they appreciably influence the electromagnetic structure of the deuteron beyond a momentum transfer of q = 5 fm −1.