British deny ac­cu­sa­tion of be­tray­ing the DUP

Let­ter ‘raises alarm bells’ for those who value the in­tegrity of the union, says Fos­ter DUP’s Brexit spokesman says May is guilty of ‘to­tal be­trayal’ of promises

The Irish Times - - Home News - DE­NIS STAUNTON Lon­don Ed­i­tor

Down­ing Street has rejected claims that British prime min­is­ter Theresa May is pre­par­ing to “be­tray” the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party by ac­cept­ing a back­stop that could leave North­ern Ire­land un­der dif­fer­ent cus­toms and sin­gle mar­ket rules from the rest of the United King­dom.

In a let­ter to DUP leader Ar­lene Fos­ter and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, Mrs May said she could not ac­cept that there would be any cir­cum­stances in which a North­ern Ire­land-spe­cific cus­toms back­stop could be al­lowed to come into force.

“The prime min­is­ter’s let­ter sets out her com­mit­ment, which she has been ab­so­lutely clear about on any num­ber of oc­ca­sions, to never ac­cept­ing any cir­cum­stances in which the UK is di­vided into two cus­toms ter­ri­to­ries. The gov­ern­ment will not agree any­thing that brings about a hard bor­der on the is­land of Ire­land,” a Down­ing Street spokesman said.

Ms Fos­ter said she in­ter­preted the let­ter as a sig­nal that Mrs May was ready to ac­cept that there would be North­ern Ire­land-spe­cific el­e­ments in the back­stop she is hop­ing to agree with Brus­sels.

“The prime min­is­ter’s let­ter raises alarm bells for those who value the in­tegrity of our pre­cious union, and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole of the UK,” she said.

Mrs May’s cab­i­net is ex­pected to meet early next week to con­sider a draft with­drawal agree­ment in­clud­ing a com­pro­mise pro­posal on the back­stop. If min­is­ters back the deal and EU mem­ber states ap­prove it, it could be signed off at a spe­cial EU sum­mit in late Novem­ber.

Down­ing Street has con­sis­tently main­tained that a UK-wide cus­toms back­stop would re­move the need for a North­ern Ire­land-spe­cific back­stop. But the prime min­is­ter’s let­ter makes clear that the back­stop will in­clude North­ern Ire­land-spe­cific re­quire­ments for reg­u­la­tory align­ment with the EU.

Vote

The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wil­son said Mrs May was guilty of a “to­tal be­trayal” of promises she made to en­sure that there would be no bor­der in the Ir­ish Sea af­ter Brexit. Mr Wil­son made clear that the DUP’s 10 MPs at West­min­ster could not vote for a Brexit deal that in­cluded such a back­stop.

The prime min­is­ter’s prospects of win­ning a par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity for a Brexit deal dimmed fur­ther yes­ter­day when Jo John­son re­signed as trans­port min­is­ter and called for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum. Mr John­son, whose brother Boris was one of the lead­ers of the Leave cam­paign in 2016, said Bri­tain was “bar­relling to­wards an in­co­her­ent Brexit” that would leave the coun­try trapped in a sub­or­di­nate re­la­tion­ship to the EU.

Mr John­son said that, now that it was clear what leav­ing the EU ac­tu­ally looked like, British vot­ers should be al­lowed to make the fi­nal choice about how to pro­ceed.

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