DUP accuses PM of backstop betrayal and warns of consequences
Party says its 10 MPS could vote against Brexit deal after leaked letter suggests Irish Sea border
THE DUP has accused Theresa May of “betrayal” amid concerns she is poised to break her pledge not to allow Northern Ireland to be divided from the rest of the UK after Brexit. A leaked letter from the Prime Minister to the DUP suggested that the Government is preparing to allow the EU to impose specific regulatory checks in the Irish Sea in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The DUP warned Mrs May that the party’s 10 MPS are prepared to vote against her Brexit deal in the Commons.
Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said the Prime Minister appeared “wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea” despite Downing Street’s repeated assurances to the contrary. Sammy Wilson, the DUP’S Brexit spokesman, said that the move would represent a “total betrayal” and said that there would be “consequences” for the Government.
The row focuses on the “backstop” which is intended to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if no deal can be reached on Brexit.
In a letter obtained by The Times, Mrs May said that she could not accept any circumstances where the EU’S plans for a backstop that would see Northern Ireland separated from the UK “could come into force”. But she acknowledged that the “unique circumstances” of Northern Ireland “could require specific alignment solutions in some scenarios” on regulations.
The DUP has interpreted the wording of her letter to mean that Northern Ireland-only measures will be contained in the Brexit divorce deal.
Mrs Foster said: “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. 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.”
Sammy Wilson, the DUP Brexit spokesman, said “we want to trust the Prime Minister” but “you have to judge any promise by what is actually delivered in an agreement”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today that the letter “makes it quite clear the Government has accepted there will be a Northern Ireland-only backstop, that that backstop will require specific alignment for regulations without Northern Ireland being given a say”. The Prime Minister relies on the support of the DUP’S 10 MPS for her Commons majority.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “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.”