Foster warns May against ‘dodgy’ deal with Brussels to avoid hard border
Amanda Ferguson UK prime minister Theresa May has been warned not to accept a “dodgy” deal from Brussels by the leader of her Democratic Unionist Party allies.
Ahead of a crunch Brussels summit last Wednesday, Arlene Foster told May not to accept a plan that would “effectively cut Northern Ireland adrift”. Foster yesterday said that she would prefer no Brexit deal to a bad deal, describing current plans as amounting to “the annexation of Northern Ireland” by the European Union.
In an effort to find a way to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland after Brexit, reports have suggested the UK could remain tied to Brussels’ rules beyond the end of 2020 to give negotiators more time to finalise a trade deal.
The potential extension of the transition period, which could see the UK stay in the EU single market and customs union, accept continued free movement and make further payments to Brussels, is being considered as intensive negotiations continue ahead of the European Council summit.
Under the current plans, if there is a Brexit deal the transition period will last until the end of 2020, during which time the UK will accept Brussels’ rules without having a seat at the table when they are decided.
But the option of a potential extension is being considered by negotiators in Brussels to allow extra time to draw up a deal on the future UKEU relationship — and avoid the need to use a controversial ‘backstop’ arrangement to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The need to resolve the backstop issue is a political headache for May, who depends on the votes of the 10 DUP MPs to prop up her administration in Westminster.
The EU’s version, which would see just Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels’ rules, has been called unacceptable by May — and is loathed by the DUP.
May’s counter-proposal, set out in June, was for a “temporary customs arrangement” for the whole UK, but Tory Brexiteers are suspicious this could turn into a permanent situation — restricting the freedom to strike trade deals around the world.
In a strongly-worded article in the Belfast Telegraph yesterday, Foster warned against the EU’s backstop proposal and also stressed that she would not accept any measure that resulted in extra checks for goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Stressing that her party — which is threatening to cause a political crisis in the UK by voting down the Budget if May gives way to Brussels — was serious, she said: “The DUP’s actions this week are not as some have suggested about ‘flexing muscle’.”
In a direct message, she urged May not to follow Margaret Thatcher in accepting a deal she later regretted — referring to Thatcher’s part in the Anglo-Irish agreement.
“She later deeply regretted the choice she had made. However, we do not want nor need the regrets of another prime minister,” Foster added.
“We want her to stand by her principles and instincts rather than accepting a dodgy deal foisted on her by others.”