Irish plan a worry for May
British Prime Minister Theresa May has met senior Cabinet members after Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party raised the pressure on her to change her Brexit plan.
Ahead of a crucial summit of European Union leaders next week, Mrs May “briefed her inner Cabinet . . . that a historic Brexit deal is close,” the Financial Times reported.
The newspaper said two eurosceptic ministers were rumoured to be considering quitting the Government, and that other MPs from Mrs May’s Conservative Party were “fuming” that she appeared ready to accept a Brexit “backstop” to keep Britain in a “temporary” but potentially indefinite customs union with the EU.
The DUP is also unhappy that Mrs May is close to accepting the “backstop” plan for the Irish border, which could involve checks on some goods transported to Northern Ireland from Britain.
The 10 Northern Ireland MPs at Westminster, who support the minority Tory Government on key issues, abstained in a non-crucial vote on Wednesday — a symbolic warning to Mrs May.
“We will take decisions based on what is best for everyone in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom,” DUP leader Arlene Foster said.
After a third day of talks with EU officials in Brussels, Mrs Foster accused EU leaders of wanting to “place an effective one-way turnstile from Northern Ireland into the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Mrs May has proposed a temporary, last-resort “backstop” to maintain free movement of goods and people across the Irish border once Britain leaves the EU in March.
If no other solution can be found, the backstop would apply after a 21-month transitional period to keep an open border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
“Trade from Great Britain into Northern Ireland would be in danger of restriction,” Mrs Foster said.
“Indeed, Northern Ireland’s access to any new United Kingdom trade deals would also be regulated by Brussels.”
Eurosceptic Conservative Iain Duncan Smith, a former party chairman, told the BBC that Mrs May should “listen very carefully” amid speculation that the Northern Ireland MPs could vote against her budget later this month.
“We will not be bullied into propping up a soft-touch government which gives in to the EU’s demands,” the DUP’s Sammy Wilson wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.