PM ‘set to agree Ir­ish Sea bor­der’

DUP alarm af­ter leaked let­ter sug­gests ma­jor Brexit U-turn

Belfast Telegraph - - FRONT PAGE - BY OUR PO­LIT­I­CAL STAFF

ARLENE Foster has slammed Theresa May (right) for be­ing “wed­ded to the idea of a bor­der down the Ir­ish Sea”.

Mrs Foster hit out af­ter re­ceiv­ing a let­ter from the Prime Min­is­ter which the DUP leader said “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”.

The let­ter has been in­ter­preted by the DUP to mean that in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, North­ern Ire­land would be sep­a­rated from the rest of the UK by a cus­toms bor­der in the Ir­ish Sea. But No.10 said Mrs May would not agree to any­thing that sep­a­rates North­ern Ire­land from Great Bri­tain.

THERESA May has been ac­cused of break­ing her prom­ise to the DUP that she would never sign up to a Brexit deal that sep­a­rates North­ern Ire­land from the rest of the UK.

A let­ter from the Prime Min­is­ter has been in­ter­preted by DUP leader Arlene Foster to mean that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, North­ern Ire­land would be sep­a­rated from the rest of the UK by a cus­toms bor­der in the Ir­ish Sea.

Ac­cord­ing to The Times, which ob­tained the five-page let­ter also sent to DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, Mrs May stated that the EU is still push­ing for the “back­stop to the back­stop”, but in­sists she would not al­low a di­vide to “come into force” be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the rest of the UK.

The news­pa­per said this had been in­ter­preted by the DUP to mean that the EU pro­posal will be­come part of the legally bind­ing with­drawal agree­ment.

“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,” Mrs Foster told The Times. “It ap­pears the Prime Min­is­ter is wed­ded to the idea of a bor­der down the Ir­ish Sea with North­ern Ire­land in the EU sin­gle mar­ket reg­u­la­tory regime.”

Mrs May had pre­vi­ously in­di­cated that she would never sign up to a Brexit deal that cre­ated bar­ri­ers be­tween North­ern Ire­land and Great Bri­tain.

It was one of the ‘red lines’ the DUP had warned the Prime Min­is­ter not to cross if she wanted its MPs to con­tinue to sup­port the Con­ser­va­tives in West­min­ster as part of their con­fi­dence and sup­ply deal.

With­out the back­ing of the 10 DUP MPs for key votes such as bud­gets, Mrs May and her Govern­ment face ma­jor dif­fi­cul­ties — not least get­ting her Brexit plan through Par­lia­ment.

The leaked let­ter also sug­gests that the whole of the UK could re­main closely tied to EU, as the Govern­ment does “not ex­pect reg­u­la­tions to diverge be­tween Great Bri­tain and North­ern Ire­land”.

In her let­ter, Mrs May wrote that the back­stop was “an in­sur­ance pol­icy that no-one in the UK or the EU wants or ex­pects to use” and that it would not last in­def­i­nitely.

A Down­ing Street spokesman told The Times that the Prime Min­is­ter would not agree to any­thing that sep­a­rates North­ern Ire­land from the rest of the UK.

“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 sec­ond Fianna Fail mem­ber has been sacked from a se­nior party role due to his in­volve­ment in the unau­tho­rised launch of a party elec­tion can­di­date in North­ern Ire­land.

Ea­mon O Cuiv, who was front bench spokesman for Re­gional Devel­op­ment, Ru­ral Af­fairs and the Gaeltacht, has been de­moted by party leader Micheal Martin.

The move was an­nounced a day af­ter Se­na­tor Mark Daly was stripped of his du­ties as Fianna Fail deputy leader in the Seanad for his role in the un­sanc­tioned event in Omagh.

Last month Mr O Cuiv and Mr Daly re­vealed for­mer Sinn Fein coun­cil­lor Sor­cha McAne­spy as a “can­di­date” for next year’s lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions.

The an­nounce­ment ap­peared to her­ald Fianna Fail’s long-an­tic­i­pated move into elec­toral pol­i­tics north of the bor­der.

Ms McAne­spy is a mem­ber of Fianna Fail’s Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive and an in­de­pen­dent coun­cil­lor on Fer­managh and Omagh Dis­trict Coun­cil.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin with Ea­mon O Cuiv TD. Be­low: Mr O Cuiv with Se­na­tor Mark Daly and Sor­chaMcAne­spy

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