UK to have "common rulebook" with the EU for all goods, including agricultural and food products

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Suzanne Breen

Papers circulated to ministers ahead of today's crunch meeting at Chequers are reported to recommend that the UK should maintain a "common rulebook" with the EU for all goods, including agricultural and food products.

The document, obtained by The Spectator, also reportedly says that the price for divergence from EU rules and regulations on services is likely to be reduced access for UK-based firms to European markets.

And the magazine quotes the paper as saying that this deal "would not allow the UK to accommodate a likely ask from the US in a future trade deal" as the UK would be unable to recognise the US's "array of standards".

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said his party will be holding the Prime Minister to her pledge that the entire UK leaves the EU on the same terms.

Speaking ahead of today's key Cabinet meeting at Chequers about Brexit policy, the DUP deputy leader claimed that any "hybrid status" for Northern Ireland would be disastrous.

But Sinn Fein accused the DUP of prioritising a "Little England" policy over the economic interests of people here.

Mr Dodds said: "As the Cabinet meets to consider its white paper on Brexit, the DUP is clear about the way forward.

"We will be holding the Prime Minister to her commitments on the integrity of the UK so that the whole of the country leaves the EU and its institutions together. This is vital for economic as well as political and constitutional reasons.

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"People voted to take back control of their laws, borders and money, not to make Northern Ireland's constitutional framework resemble the backside of a tapestry."

Mr Dodds said a hybrid status with Northern Ireland subject to EU laws and regulations, and set apart from the UK market, would be "sheer madness".

He said: "It would be the road to economic ruin and the beginning of the constitutional break-up of the UK. Our ongoing intense engagement with the Government on all things to do with Brexit will continue to ensure our status as an integral part of the UK is strengthened.

"On the overall shape of Brexit for the UK as a whole, we will judge the final white paper against the tests the Prime Minister herself set out."

The DUP deputy leader added: "We will continue to shape the way forward in the best interests of Northern Ireland making sure the Union is defended and strengthened and our economy is best placed for the years ahead."

Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill hit out at the DUP's stance.

"It's remarkable that on the same day that Jaguar-Land Rover warned that Brexit threatens thousands of jobs in Britain, Nigel Dodds says that is the kind of future he wants to see for the people of the north," she said.

"Brexit is an exercise in flag-waving jingoism that will cause economic and social devastation to the entire island of Ireland. Nigel Dodds is living in a fool's paradise if he thinks otherwise.

"Maybe Nigel is comfortable with that, providing he uses a blue passport to get there, but I am not. The people Sinn Fein represents are not. The business community, the farming community and anyone who puts cold, hard economic facts over right-wing rhetoric is not comfortable with that."

Mrs O'Neill added: "The DUP should get real and start representing the economic interests of people in the north rather than prioritising a 'Little England' Brexit that will have devastating consequences for people across Ireland."

Mrs May's proposals, if confirmed, are likely to infuriate eurosceptics.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry expressed scepticism anything viable would emerge from today's Cabinet meeting.

He said in the short run, the Government had no alternative but to come to terms with some form of backstop around the border.

Belfast Telegraph

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