No-deal plan 'will include new border in Irish Sea'

Nellie Chapman
November 10, 2018

It was revealed on Thursday that a letter sent to Mrs Foster and deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds suggested that the Prime Minister would be willing to include a Northern Ireland specific "backstop to the backstop" in the final Brexit withdrawal deal.

The fragile alliance keeping Ms May in power has been strained as the DUP railed against measures it fears will create a border down the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Theresa May accused of "total betrayal" over plans to accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop in the Brexit deal. Any version of the backstop would apply unless and until a wider UK-EU deal on the future relationship solved the issue of how to avoid a hard border with Ireland.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster told The Times that a letter she received from May this week about the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement "raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union".

While the Prime Minister said she would not allow the second backstop to "come into force", her letter failed to rule out it being a part of the finalised agreement.

Mrs May has also come under fire from her own MPs and Cabinet ministers, who have demanded legal advice on the final terms of the UK's exit to ensure the EU can not keep Britain inside the customs union indefinitely.

However, while the European Union is willing to include a UK-wide backstop, it is adamant that the Northern Ireland-only backstop must be included too, to ensure the status quo in Ireland is maintained in all circumstances.

But she acknowledged that the "unique circumstances" of Northern Ireland "could require specific alignment solutions in some scenarios" on regulations.

Downing Street reiterated the PM's own commitment to avoiding a hard border.

The response of the DUP has caused frustration in Downing Street, with sources insisting that Mrs May was not hiding behind "weasel words" and had stressed that she would not accept a deal which saw Northern Ireland hived off.

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Asked about Mrs May's letter, he said both the prime minister and the DUP are "very much able to speak for themselves".

Speaking at the British-Irish Council summit on the Isle of Man, Mr Varadkar said he was hopeful a Brexit deal could be done by the end of the year but it would not amount to a "clean break" as talks would have to continue.

"There will be product on the table which all will have signed up to that will have involved compromises on all sides", he said.

"And we'll do our best to work through it and make sure we get the best outcome for our citizens".

"I hope and I believe that we can secure that majority in Parliament for the agreement".

"The fact that Brexit is happening makes that hard to replicate, but our objective as an Irish Government is to do that to the extent that we can, in order to allow people to travel freely as they have done for so long now, but also to allow trade to function as it does now".

"And I think if we do that, if we listen to the voice of Northern Ireland as a whole that will help us to come to an agreement".

A Cabinet minister said the plan has been developed to ensure the worst elements of a no-deal Brexit could be eased, but they also pointed out it could be beneficial to the United Kingdom in the long run.

"This is an insurance policy none of us ever want to use", she said.

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