Published: Sat, October 13, 2018

DUP predicts 'developments' in Government's Brexit position over weekend

DUP predicts 'developments' in Government's Brexit position over weekend

UK Prime Minister Theresa May was challenged by a number of her cabinet ministers, including Liam Fox, the global trade secretary and Michael Gove, the environment secretary, on Thursday who voiced concerns over her new backstop plan, fearing it would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU for an open-ended period of time.

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Theresa May relies on DUP support in key votes because she does not have a majority in the House of Commons.

In the absence of a comprehensive EU-UK trade partnership after Brexit, the EU is seeking a "backstop" arrangement whereby Northern Ireland would effectively remain subject to the bloc's regulations to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

With less than six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, its most momentous shift in foreign and trade policy for over four decades, May is seeking to rally support at home on the details of a divorce deal though it is unclear if she can win parliamentary approval.

The chancellor has risked angering cabinet ministers who oppose removing the time-limit on the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union's customs territory by demanding close link to Europe even after 2020.

The DUP is adamant it will not agree to anything which results in imposition of extra customs or regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

A separate paper said gas trading between Britain and Europe was not expected to change significantly in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"The only way to put things back on the right track is to ditch the backstop and then to chuck Chequers", Johnson wrote in an article for the Belfast News Letter, referring to a set of proposals formulated in July at May's Chequers country retreat.

Negotiators were also sparring over whether that would cover Northern Ireland or mainland Britain as well.

"Anyone engaging in this in a light-hearted way foolishly fails to grasp the gravity of the decisions we will make in the coming weeks".

However, Westminster was rife with speculation of possible resignations if Mrs May gives too much ground to the European Union in her attempt to win an agreement.

But Theresa May hopes to convince sceptical ministers, several of whom expressed concern about the idea at an informal meeting in No 10 on Thursday, that the backstop will never need to be invoked.

The spokesman added: "I can't negotiate the final stages of documents in this room but what I can say is that our position is absolutely that the PM is not going to agree a deal which would trap us in a backstop permanently".

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