Friday 20 September 2019

Arlene Foster says DUP will 'oppose deal which weakens Union' as text on how to manage Irish border 'agreed'

  • EU and UK negotiators agree text for Irish border - report
  • Irish ministers have been notified to be on standby for a special Cabinet meeting tomorrow

Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May during a bilateral meeting in Brussels
Leo Varadkar and Prime Minister Theresa May during a bilateral meeting in Brussels
British Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A MAJOR breakthrough on how to manage the Irish border after Brexit has been achieved.

The EU Taskforce and British government representatives agreed to the ‘backstop’ late last night, it has emerged.

While government sources in Dublin were this evening urging “calm”, it is understood the text is now under active consideration by UK Prime Minister Theresa May.

She decided not to present any details of a deal to her Cabinet this morning.

And in the Dáil, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attempted to play down reports that an agreement on the Irish question has been reached.

He repeatedly refused to answer questions on the reports of a deal from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald and Labour’s Brendan Howlin.

Irish ministers have been notified to be on standby for a special Cabinet meeting tomorrow.

A meeting of the Irish Cabinet has been called for 9.30am “to consider developments”.

Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said: “The Irish government want to allow the British government to have time and space to consider the draft agreements.”

Meanwhile, in a strong indication that the DUP will vote against the deal, party leader Arlene Foster said that without an exit clause the UK “would be handcuffed to the European Union with Brussels holding the keys”.

She said the DUP would oppose “a deal which weakens the Union”.

“These are momentous days and the decisions being taken will have long-lasting ramifications.”

Ms Foster said it would be “democratically unacceptable for Northern Ireland trade rules to be set by Brussels”.

“Northern Ireland would have no representation in Brussels and would be dependent on a Dublin government speaking up for our core industries,” she said.

The latest version of the backstop is expected to involve a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement with the EU.

However, it will include specific provisions for Northern Ireland. The region will be more tightly aligned to EU rules. This element will face opposition from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up Mrs May’s minority government.

RTÉ reported this evening that while the text is regarded as “stable”, it is still being scrutinised in London.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's spokesman has insisting "nothing has been confirmed".

"We have not been informed that an agreement has been reached."

However he added this it is "a fast moving situation" and "we know discussions have been developing".

He adds that the Irish position relating to a backstop needing to be in place "unless and until" something better is established remains.

There is now a growing expectation that Mrs May will schedule a special meeting for tomorrow.

However, a spokesperson for Tánaiste Simon Coveney told “Negotiations between the EU and UK on a Withdrawal Agreement are ongoing and have not concluded.

"Negotiators are still engaged and a number of issues are outstanding. We are not commenting further on leaks in the media.”

More to follow

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