DUP reacts to Brexit draft report that UK ready to concede to special status deal for Northern Ireland
The DUP has rejected a leaked draft agreement that reportedly shows the UK and Republic of Ireland officials have tentatively agreed to keep Northern Ireland’s regulations in line with those of European Union after Brexit.
The draft deal text would effectively keep Northern Ireland in the single market and customs union after Brexit by keeping EU regulations in place, unlike the rest of the UK.
Sources in Brussels however said that though officials on both sides were in broad agreement over the solution to the problem, Downing Street has so far felt unable to sign off on it.
RTE says the draft deal said: “In the absence of agreed solutions the UK will ensure that there continues to be no divergence from those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support North South cooperation and the protection of the Good Friday Agreement.”
It adds that this paragraph was later amended to say there would be “continued regulatory alignment” on the island of Ireland.
Speaking to a briefing of journalists in Westminster, Downing Street rubbished the draft leak.
"The PM has been clear that the UK is leaving the European Union as a whole and the territorial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom will be protected," Theresa May's spokesperson said.
Reacting to the draft suggestions the DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson told reporters: "That is not our understanding of the UK Government's position."
Speaking to BBC Talkback DUP MP Sammy Wilson said: "It's purely speculation and we are commenting on speculation and I think it's better not to.
"Let me spell out the difficulties on what is suggested if indeed it is true.
"The government has made it very clear and even today again, that there will be no agreement made which would impact and create differences not just on a constitutional basis but on an economic basis that would make a difference between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
"We will do nothing that would separate us from our main market which is the UK.
"That's why I suspect the kind of information you have been given is probably not correct."
When asked what impact it would have on the DUP/Tory confidence and supply deal Mr Wilson said he would not "deal speculatively on this".
He said: "They have repeated today that will in no way separate the economies or territorial integrity of the UK that's the agreement we have and we expect them to live up.
"I'm not going to let leaks from the Irish Government draw me down a road speculatively on what's going to happen.
"We have the political leverage in the House of Commons to hold the government to that agreement and we will do that."
Asked about the prospect of the UK giving ground on the issue of regulatory divergence, Sinn Fein's Declan Kearney said his party was adopting a "wait and see" approach.
"We have been down this road too many times before," he said.
"Let's have clarity, let's have certainty, let's have clarity around the issue of there being no imposed Brexit border and let's have certainty around the rights of all citizens in this part of the island of Ireland."
Sinn Fein has called for Northern Ireland to be afforded special designated status within the EU.
"Anything that emerges we will stress test against the criteria and requirements of designated special status," Mr Kearney added.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is expected to make a statement on the Brexit negotiations at 2.30pm.