No-deal and the Irish border: extracts from the leaked letter

No-deal and the Irish border: extracts from the leaked letter

PM set to agree Irish Sea border – Theresa May letter rings alarm bells, says Foster

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.

2/2 1st November 2018 letter from Arlene Foster @DUPleader & Nigel @NigelDoddsDUP to the Prime Minister. “It is vital for both NI & the entire UK that if agreement is reached, it must be clear and must not risk opening divergence within the UK for generations to come.” pic.twitter.com/gCcvp01p8O

The row comes as Brexit is expected to dominate the agenda of the British Irish Council, which will be attended by the taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, David Lidington, who is in effect Mays deputy, and the Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley. The summit on the Isle of Man will also be attended by the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones.

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.

Read more A Downing Street spokesman said: The prime ministers 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.

DUP accuses May of breaking Brexit pledge over Irish Sea border

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.

Wilson said: She is now contemplating signing up to a legal agreement which, regardless to her aspirations, would be binding on the government of the UK. Secondly it would be a legal agreement which the government of the UK could not walk away from – that could only be broken if the government in the UK and the EU agreed to it being changed.

“The Prime Ministers 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.”

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.

Wilson said suggestions in the letter, which had been leaked to the Times, that Northern Ireland could face a different regulatory regime to the rest of the UK under the backstop clause, were unacceptable. He added that Conservative backbenchers had concerns about other aspects of the deal.

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”.

Wilson told Sky News: If she continues down the road of bringing something forward which is unacceptable to a large part of her own party and ourselves, then I think the inevitable consequence is that it will be voted down in the House of Commons.

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 leak of the letter is seen by some observers, as well as the DUP, as part of a laying of the ground by May for a showdown with the party over checks in British ports or factories in Northern Ireland or Britain.

“The Prime Ministers 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.”

Meanwhile, Eurosceptic Conservative MPs said they will still vote down the governments Brexit deal, even if May negotiates an exit clause from the Irish backstop, according to the former minister Steve Baker.

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