DUP fury with May over prospect of Brexit 'Irish Sea border'

Liam Fox

A statement following a meeting between Mrs May and Mr Varadkar said: "The Taoiseach indicated an openness to consider proposals for a review, provided that it was clear that the outcome of any such review could not involve a unilateral decision to end the backstop".

The European Union's fallback proposal aimed at avoiding a hard border between Ireland and the United Kingdom would effectively keep Northern Ireland aligned with Brussels' customs union and single market.

But DUP leaders said on Friday that May's wording meant the fix would still be included in the withdrawal agreement that London and Brussels have been arguing about for many months.

The DUP believes Mrs May is prepared to give into Brussels" demands and agree a "backstop', which would see Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the United Kingdom after Brexit and effectively create a new border in the Irish Sea.

According to The Times of London the letter says the European Union wants a Northern Ireland-specific "backstop to the backstop" and Mrs May tells the DUP she could not accept any circumstances where this could come in to force.

The leak of the letter is seen by some observers, as well as the DUP, as part of a laying of the ground by May for a showdown with the party over checks in British ports or factories in Northern Ireland or Britain.

The British prime minister wants a "backstop" measure which would create a temporary "joint customs territory" with the European Union for the whole of the UK.

But she acknowledged that the "unique circumstances" of Northern Ireland "could require specific alignment solutions in some scenarios" on regulations.

Speaking on the same programme, the DUP's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said that the party's understanding of May's negotiating position represented a betrayal.

Theresa May's Conservative Party relies on the support of the DUP's 10 MPs for her Commons majority, votes which may become crucial as she attempts to get a deal through Parliament.

The UK government has so far proposed a backstop - with an expected end date of 2021 - which would effectively keep the whole of the UK in the EU customs union for a limited period after Brexit.

She added: "Around the British and Irish Council table I detect nothing but strong desire to ensure that whatever happens in Brexit, we are all working to make sure that these relationships continue to be as strong as they are".

"There is no clean break here, Brexit is going to go on for a very long time".

"And I think if we do that, if we listen to the voice of Northern Ireland as a whole that will help us to come to an agreement".

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