UK PM faces fury of Northern Irish allies over Brexit

10 November, 2018, 22:22 | Author: Myra Gill
  • Liam Fox

A leaked letter from Ms May to the DUP says 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.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) interpreted a promise made by May in a letter that she would never let a division of the United Kingdom "to come into force" as an admission that such a clause would be included in a final deal, the Times reported.

While the Prime Minister said she would not allow the second backstop to "come into force", her letter failed to rule out it being a part of the finalised agreement.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the Prime Minister appeared "wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea" despite Downing Street's repeated assurances to the contrary.

May sent a five-page letter on Tuesday to the leaders of Northern Ireland's small Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that supports her government.

"The PM knows the consequences, she now needs to reconsider", DUP lawmaker Sammy Wilson said.

In the leaked letter, the prime minister also told the DUP she "would not accept being kept in a backstop arrangement indefinitely", while it would be "totally unacceptable" for a time limit to the UK-wide backstop arrangement to then simply result in the Northern Ireland-only solution being adopted.

It comes after the PM last month told MPs that 95% of the deal had been agreed, with the key sticking point of the "backstop" to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remaining unresolved.


Downing Street says the letter sets out the prime minister's commitment "to never accepting any circumstances in which the United Kingdom is divided into two customs territories".

Tensions between Mrs May and her DUP allies have been exposed amid concerns about measures aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"The fact is that Theresa May signed up to the Irish backstop in December and that remains the bottom line in order to prevent a hard border and safeguard our political and economic stability now and for the future", he said. It can not be watered down or bargained off.

The Taoiseach said "I'm hopeful it can be done in the next few weeks".

The First Minister was speaking following a meeting of the British-Irish Council on the Isle of Man, which was also attended by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Ireland's Leo Varadkar.

He said a UK-EU deal would involve "compromises, give and take on all sides" but when faced with "product on the table" in the form of an agreement backed by all 28 governments there could be a shift in attitude at Westminster.

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has claimed that a deal between Britain and the European Union on Brexit could be possible within a fortnight.

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