UK PM faces fury of Northern Irish allies over Brexit

Liam Fox

Liam Fox

The DUP has accused the PM of breaking promises over plans to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

Theresa May will dismiss claims that she has capitulated on the "backstop to the backstop" but it seems clear, based on the contents of her five-page letter to the Democratic Unionist Party, revealed yesterday by The Times, that she is willing to concede on pretty much all the European Union has asked for.

But DUP leaders said on Friday that May's wording meant the fix would still be included in the withdrawal agreement that London and Brussels hope to reach in the coming days.

Arlene Foster says it has "raised alarm bells" as Mrs May appears "wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea".

It led to the DUP's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson to accuse the Prime Minister of being guilty of a "total betrayal" of her promises that Northern Ireland would not be treated differently from the United Kingdom should Downing Street and Brussels fail to secure a future trade deal.

"The PM knows the consequences, she now needs to reconsider", DUP lawmaker Sammy Wilson said.

"When it comes to Northern Ireland it's very important to listen to, and have regard for, what the DUP has to say - but there are other political parties as well", Mr Varadkar added.

May depends on the 10 DUP MP votes for a majority in Westminster and will likely need them for any vote on a deal she strikes with Brussels.

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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 United Kingdom is divided into two customs territories".

Less than five months before Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, negotiators are still haggling over a backup plan for the land border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland should they fail to clinch a deal.

Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said the British government needed to honour its commitments to avoid a hard border rather than promises made to the DUP.

A Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister would not agree to "anything that brings about a hard border on the island of Ireland".

"It can not be negotiated downwards".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mrs May's effective deputy prime minister David Lidington and Secretary of State Karen Bradley will attend a summit on the Isle of Man on Friday.

Cabinet ministers have been on stand-by for an emergency session to review any potential deal, but the source said that "nothing is going to happen" in terms of a meeting over the weekend.

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