Ir­ish plan a worry for May

The West Australian - - WORLD -

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.

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