Foster warns May against ‘dodgy’ deal with Brus­sels to avoid hard bor­der

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Brexit -

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.”

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