Thursday 15 November 2018

DUP steps up warning to May not to compromise on Border

Red lines: DUP leader Arlene Foster in Brussels. Picture: Reuters
Red lines: DUP leader Arlene Foster in Brussels. Picture: Reuters

Dan O'Donoghue

The DUP has stepped up warnings to Theresa May not to compromise over the Irish Border in her efforts to secure a Brexit deal.

Following three days of talks with key figures in Brussels, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the UK prime minister could not in "good conscience" accept the proposals currently on the table from the EU.

Her intervention came as Mrs May met cabinet ministers in Downing Street to brief them on the progress in the Brexit negotiations yesterday.

Mrs May was reported to have played down the prospects of a breakthrough at next week's EU summit in Brussels, billed as the "moment of truth" by European Council President Donald Tusk.

In a statement, Ms Foster, whose party props up the government at Westminster, said the EU plan would effectively mean imposing a trade barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

"The prime minister is a unionist. Many of her cabinet colleagues have assured me of their unionism," she said. "Therefore, they could not in good conscience recommend a deal which places a trade barrier on United Kingdom businesses moving goods from one part of the kingdom to another."

Ms Foster's remarks came after the party had earlier made clear that it would be prepared to vote against the budget and other legislation if Mrs May crossed its "red lines".

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said ministers would not sign up to any plan which compromised the territorial integrity of the UK by imposing a "border in the Irish Sea".

"The DUP's red lines are actually Theresa May's red lines," he told BBC News.

Suspicions remain among hardline Tory Brexiteers that Mrs May is heading for a compromise which could tie the UK to EU customs arrangements indefinitely - something which Boris Johnson has warned would reduce the UK to a "permanent EU colony".

Negotiations between the two sides have focused on the proposals for a so-called "backstop" to ensure that there is no return to a "hard Border" between the North and the Republic.

However Brexiteers - including UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab - are insisting any arrangement which would see the UK effectively remain part of the customs union while negotiations over a free trade deal take place must be strictly time-limited - something the EU has been resisting.

Earlier, Brexiteer cabinet minister Esther McVey pointedly refused to endorse Mrs May's Chequers blueprint for Brexit, although she insisted Mrs May had her full support.

Irish Independent

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