We’ll top­ple gov­ern­ment if May gives in to Brus­sels, says DUP

Taranaki Daily News - - World -

Theresa May was warned by the DUP that it would be pre­pared to bring down her gov­ern­ment if she signs up to a com­pro­mise with Brus­sels to solve the Ir­ish bor­der ques­tion next week.

In an ex­plicit threat to the prime min­is­ter be­fore a crit­i­cal five days of ne­go­ti­a­tions in Brus­sels, the party threat­ened to with­draw sup­port for the bud­get later this month un­less it was happy with the fi­nal deal. The DUP un­der­lined its point by ab­stain­ing in a Com­mons vote in which it would nor­mally have been ex­pected to sup­port the gov­ern­ment.

The move, which in­volved a Labour amend­ment to the agri­cul­ture bill, was co-or­di­nated with Tory Brex­i­teers, un­der­stands. It was de­signed to put max­i­mum pres­sure on May from her own party not to com­pro­mise on the Ir­ish back­stop is­sue, which stops ad­di­tional checks at the bor­der what­ever the Brexit out­come. Down­ing Street was given no warn­ing of the DUP threat which, if fol­lowed through, could lead to the Con­ser­va­tives los­ing their

‘‘It is un­ac­cept­able that we would be treated dif­fer­ently to the rest of the UK,’’ a se­nior DUP source said. ‘‘We will not be bounced into any­thing. If Theresa May doesn’t take our con­cerns on board, she may not be the leader to take us through Brexit.’’

To­day the prime min­is­ter is due to meet a group of se­nior cab­i­net min­is­ters, in­clud­ing the for­eign sec­re­tary, Jeremy Hunt, the home sec­re­tary, Sa­jid Javid, and the de­fence sec­re­tary, Gavin Wil­liamson, to brief them on the ne­go­ti­a­tions. It is be­ing seen as an at­tempt to build sup­port for a com­pro­mise be­fore a for­mal cab­i­net dis­cus­sion on a po­ten­tial deal on Tues­day.

Down­ing Street played down the sig­nif­i­cance of the meet­ing but key Brex­i­teers, in­clud­ing Penny Mor­daunt, Es­ther McVey and Liam Fox, are un­der­stood not to have been in­vited. Some made clear they were deeply un­happy by their ex­clu­sion.

‘‘You want to be at these meet­ings right now be­cause it’s crunch time,’’ said a source close to one of the un­in­vited cab­i­net min­is­ters. ‘‘Is the idea that those ma­jor­ity in West­min­ster. who aren’t there are not re­garded as sup­port­ive?’’

Shortly after the DUP threat, Boris John­son ac­cused May of ne­go­ti­at­ing a back­stop so­lu­tion that would turn Bri­tain into a ‘‘per­ma­nent EU colony’’.

The for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary said that any at­tempt to keep the UK in an open-ended cus­toms union was ig­nor­ing what ‘‘the big­gest ma­jor­ity in our his­tory voted for’’ and was al­low­ing the UK to be sucked into an ar­range­ment that would pre­clude new trade deals.

In Brus­sels Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead ne­go­tia­tor, sug­gested that a deal could be in sight and hinted that in­ten­sive ne­go­ti­a­tions over the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship after Brexit could ‘‘elim­i­nate’’ most bor­der checks.

He de­scribed the EU’s back­stop pro­posal for a bor­der in the Ir­ish Sea as ‘‘just a safety net’’, needed be­cause the de­tails of a fu­ture trade and cus­toms re­la­tion­ship would not be agreed un­til after Brexit next March. ‘‘The fu­ture re­la­tion­ship it­self might mit­i­gate the checks and even make some un­nec­es­sary,’’ he told a busi­ness au­di­ence in Brus­sels.

Talks this week are fo­cused on the back­stop, which would keep Bri­tain within a cus­toms union with the EU after Brexit ‘‘to ap­ply ... un­til an­other so­lu­tion’’ su­per­sedes the need for it, an ar­range­ment that will ef­fec­tively be in­def­i­nite.

A se­nior source in West­min­ster said that a meet­ing be­tween the DUP leader, Ar­lene Fos­ter, and Barnier ear­lier this week had led to the party’s threat yes­ter­day.

They said that Barnier had out­lined how he saw a pro­posed com­pro­mise work­ing which was at odds with what the party had been told by Down­ing Street. It is un­der­stood to in­volve reg­u­la­tory checks on goods trav­el­ling from Bri­tain to Northern Ire­land which the DUP has ruled out. ‘‘They came out of that meet­ing very an­gry,’’ said one source.

– The Times

GETTY IM­AGES

Traf­fic moves by a de­faced ’Wel­come to Northern Ire­land’ sign on the Ir­ish bor­der as Theresa May’s gov­ern­ment owrks to avoid a ‘‘hard’’ bor­der post Brexit.

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