Merkel welcomes Brexit progress but says devil is in detail

11 October, 2018, 11:15 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Theresa May   Getty

DUP leaders have been cautious not to state publicly what the party would do if their "red lines" are breached by the government.

The new plan has not yet been formally tabled but details which emerged last week sparked a wave of optimism that a Brexit can be reached.

The DUP have repeatedly warned they will not support any Brexit deal that could lead to new economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

But HuffPost UK has been told the party has made clear to Downing Street its "blood red lines" on Brexit could not be broken.

Weakened by both the absence of an Assembly - which means she has now not been first minister for nearly two years - and a slew of devastating revelations at the ongoing public inquiry into the "cash for ash" scandal, Mrs Foster is in a particularly weak position within the DUP from which to compromise, even if she was willing to countenance wavering on her Brexit red line.

Without an approved deal, the United Kingdom would move from seamless trade with the rest of the European Union to customs arrangements set by the World Trade Organisation for external states with no preferential deals.

Mrs Dodds said that Northern Ireland sold more goods to the GB market than the Republic of Ireland, the European Union and the rest of the world "combined".

Mrs May told her Cabinet that Britain will not accept an European Union withdrawal deal without a "precise" political declaration setting out how its requirements on trade and security will be delivered.

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The DUP has continually declared it would veto any Brexit deal that created a border down the Irish Sea, which is precisely what Mr Barnier is now saying would be necessary to carry out checks on goods passing between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mr Barnier said there were several areas of agreement with Mrs May's plans, published in a White Paper in July.

"My estimate is that there are at least 40 colleagues who are not going to accept a "half in, half out" Chequers deal or indeed a backstop that leaves us in the internal market and the customs union".

Sammy Wilson, the DUP's Brexit spokesman, warned the PM was pursuing "the road to parliamentary defeat" because his party would vote against any deal that included the proposed backstop, branded a "sell-out".

But, "Brexit was not our choice", Barnier said.

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that as many as 80 Tories are ready to oppose the plan agreed by cabinet at May's country residence in July, adding: "The whips would be doing incredibly well if they were to halve the numbers".

Speaking alongside DUP MEP Diane Dodds, Mrs Foster said she had not yet seen a fresh text on the Irish backstop, a guarantee of no hard border on the island of Ireland, from the British government.

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