May faces fury of North­ern Ir­ish al­lies over Brexit

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - WORLD -

LON­DON: Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May drew the fury of her cru­cial North­ern Ir­ish al­lies Fri­day af­ter seem­ingly ac­cept­ing an EUbacked Brexit so­lu­tion they fer­vently op­pose.

Lon­don’s lat­est po­lit­i­cal spat un­der­scores the trou­ble May’s frac­tured gov­ern­ment faces in pass­ing through Par­lia­ment any Brexit ar­range­ment it thrashes out with Brus­sels over the com­ing days.

The Times news­pa­per re­ported that May sent a five-page let­ter Tues­day to the lead­ers of North­ern Ire­land’s small Demo­cratic Union­ist Party that props up her gov­ern­ment.

May re­port­edly told her rul­ing coali­tion part­ners she would never al­low the dis­puted Brexit deal pro­posal of­fered by Brus­sels to “come into force.”

But DUP lead­ers said Fri­day that May’s word­ing meant the fix would still be in­cluded in the with­drawal agree­ment that Lon­don and Brus­sels have been ar­gu­ing about for many months. They said May had ear­lier promised them it never would, and they threat­ened to vote against the agree­ment.

“The PM’s let­ter raises alarm bells for those who value the in­tegrity of our pre­cious union & for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole UK,” DUP leader Ar­lene Foster tweeted.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wil­son told Sky News that May was guilty of “to­tal be­trayal.”

“If a deal emerges shaped on the con­tents of the PM’s let­ter, DUP MPs & our al­lies will not sup­port it,” Wil­son later tweeted. “The PM knows the con­se­quences, she now needs to re­con­sider.”

At is­sue is the nag­ging prob­lem of how to avoid bor­der checks be­tween Bri­tish North­ern Ire­land and the Repub­lic of Ire­land af­ter Brexit en­ters into force on March 29.

Lon­don sug­gests Bri­tain could tem­po­rar­ily stay aligned with the bloc’s trade rules but wants to re­serve the right to exit the ar­range­ment.

The Euro­pean Union ap­pears ready to ac­cept that, but only if there is a fall­back op­tion writ­ten into the with­drawal agree­ment.

This so-called “back­stop to the back­stop” would see North­ern Ire­land be­come wed­ded to the Euro­pean Union sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union should Lon­don and Brus­sels fail to strike a per­ma­nent trade deal. It would then re­quire ad­di­tional checks on goods and agri­cul­ture flow­ing be­tween North­ern Ire­land and main­land Bri­tain along the Ir­ish Sea.

The DUP views this as a red line and a be­trayal of the agree­ment that brought peace to the trou­bled prov­ince in the 1990s.

Some Bri­tish me­dia said May’s gov­ern­ment leaked the let­ter to pre­pare the ground for what The Guardian called a fi­nal “show­down” with the DUP over the checks.

‘The PM knows the con­se­quences, she now needs to re­con­sider’

May’s de facto deputy David Lid­ing­ton said it will be much harder for law­mak­ers to jus­tify their op­po­si­tion to the deal once its text is fi­nally writ­ten down in stone.

The agreed text “will cre­ate a new dy­namic,” Lid­ing­ton told re­porters. “I think then peo­ple will need to ask them­selves, what is it that is go­ing to be in the best in­ter­ests of those who sent them to West­min­ster to rep­re­sent them to en­sure that we main­tain liv­ing stan­dards and in­vest­ment and pros­per­ity and em­ploy­ment in our coun­try.”

Eu­roskep­tics in May’s Con­ser­va­tive Party have long threat­ened to vote against the deal be­cause it could lock Bri­tain into a long-term cus­toms ar­range­ment with the Euro­pean Union.

May’s fail­ure to se­cure the Demo­cratic Union­ist Party’s back­ing could see the gov­ern­ment lose the vote and po­ten­tially face early elec­tions. –

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