Northern Irish party threatens to topple Theresa May's United Kingdom government

Gladys Abbott
October 12, 2018

DUP leader Arlene Foster has warned Theresa May she can not "in good conscience" recommend a Brexit deal which keeps Northern Ireland in the customs union.

Talk of a draft deal having been agreed in Brussels on the Irish backstop was rubbished by Whitehall insiders, who urged caution.

"I'm sure they too will be persuaded the alternatives - of no deal or potentially a Corbyn government - would not be of benefit to them or Northern Ireland", he said.

The DUP has stepped up warnings to British Prime Minister Theresa May not to compromise over the border on the island of Ireland in her efforts to secure a Brexit deal.

But Cabinet sources said senior ministers were expected to consider the backstop plan when they met this afternoon with a view to getting the backing of the full Cabinet next Tuesday.

Downing Street insisted that defeat on the budget would not amount to a vote of no confidence in the Government under the terms of the legislation which provides for fixed-term, five-year parliaments.

He said: "She will not have DUP support regardless of whether the Government tries to bribe, bully or browbeat us into accepting it".

Blair, a prominent voice opposed to Brexit, resigned as prime minister in 2008.

"Many of her cabinet colleagues have assured me of their unionism", she said.

Brexiteers and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionists reacted angrily to the proposal, which Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said meant a Brexit deal was now "within reach" by next week's key European Council.

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London hopes to resolve the issue with a future trade deal, but agrees there should be a "backstop" arrangement to avoid physical frontier checks until that deal is done.

Labour demands that Britain retain "the exact same" perks it now has within the EU's customs union and single market - something May's so-called Chequers plan does not meet and which the EU rules out since London made a decision to leave both.

However, Mrs Foster said the EU's proposals would place "an effective one-way turnstile" between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Brexiteers are particularly anxious that Britain could be tied to European Union mechanisms indefinitely, hindering the country's ability to strike independent trade deals after it has left the bloc.

He said Mr Barnier's demands included "that we would stay as part of the single market, our laws in NI would be made in Brussels, not London, that we would not be able to be part of future United Kingdom trade deals, that the ECJ would make decisions about the rules and regulations in Northern Ireland".

By withdrawing its support, the DUP could make it hard for May to pass legislation through parliament, including the budget which will be voted on later this month.

"But that's not a question for us, we're not members of the Conservative Party".

Eurosceptic Conservative MPs who want a clean break with the European Union have expressed alarm at reports that, as it races to get a deal, the government may agree this alignment would last indefinitely.

Citing figures to make its case, the report noted that the EU (together with the European Free Trade Association) accounted for 43% of Britain's services exports in 2016, worth around than £110 billion to the United Kingdom economy.

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