DUP confirms it will not support latest Brexit plan

UK Transport Minister Jo Johnson has resigned and called for a second Brexit referendum

DUP confirms it will not support latest Brexit plan

UK Prime Minister Theresa May in London, 06-11-2018. Image: Chris Radburn/PA Archive/PA Images

The DUP has confirmed that it will not support the UK Prime Minister’s latest proposals on Brexit.

The DUP is propping up Theresa May’s minority Government under a confidence and supply arrangement.

In a letter to DUP leader Arlene Foster, leaked to The Times newspaper, Mrs May confirmed that the EU will not accept any Withdrawal Agreement that does not include a Northern Ireland specific backstop preventing any return to a hard border in Ireland.

The backstop would only come into force if a UK-wide solution failed.

She wrote: "They want to maintain a Northern Ireland-only 'backstop to the backstop' in case the future negotiations are unsuccessful,” she wrote.

"I am clear that I could not accept there being any circumstances or conditions in which that 'backstop to the backstop', which would break up the UK customs territory, could come into force.”

File photo of DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking to the media outside St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, 15-10-2018. Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

Blood red lines

This evening however, DUP leader Arlene Foster claimed the plan opens the door for a customs border in the Irish Sea.

“We cannot agree to something that hides off Northern Ireland form the rest of the UK,” she said.

“The letter that was sent to me by the Prime Minister essentially says that the Northern Ireland-specific backstop is still in play and that is not something we as unionist can support.” The UK has already committed itself in writing to a backstop solution.

In December 2017 and March of this year, the UK Government agreed that the Withdrawal Agreement would include a legally binding guarantee that there would be no return to a hard border in Ireland under any circumstance.

Northern voice

This afternoon, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was hopeful that the Withdrawal Agreement could be finalised in the next few weeks.

He said has regard for “what the DUP has to say” but warned that “there are other political parties as well who represent the majority of people in Northern Ireland.”

“And there's Northern Ireland business and Northern Ireland farmers and people living in Northern Ireland - I think we really have to have regard to that as well in coming to any conclusion,” he said.

“The position of the Irish Government has always been that we don't want to see any new borders between us.”

File photo of Jo Johnson visiting the European Commission in Brussels, 28-03-17. Image: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

"Barrelling towards an incoherent Brexit”

Meanwhile, Mrs May is facing further Westminster difficulty after Transport Minister Jo Johnson resigned over Brexit.

Boris Johnson’s brother used his resignation to call for a second Brexit Referendum.

He said the UK is "barrelling towards an incoherent Brexit” that will leave it “trapped in a subordinate relationship to the EU with no say over the rules that will govern huge swathes of our economy."

Mr Johnson said there is huge gulf between what was promised by Brexiteers during the Referendum and what is now on offer.

“I think it is imperative that we now go back to the people and check that they are content to proceed on this extraordinary basis,” he said.

“Instead of being in Europe but not governed by Europe, we will be out of Europe but subject to European rules.”

Mr Johnson voted to remain in the EU in the original referendum – while his brother Boris was leading the charge for the Brexiteers.

In a tweet this afternoon, Boris Johnson said he had “boundless admiration as ever for my brother Jo.”

“We may not have agreed about Brexit but we are united in dismay at the intellectually and politically indefensible of the UK position,” he said.

“This is not taking back control.

“It is a surrender of control. It does not remotely correspond to the mandate of the people in June 2016.”

The updated Brexit proposals are expected to be published in the coming days.

It was reported last weekend that the EU was willing to agree a deal keeping the entire UK within a customs union with the EU for a period of time after the official Brexit date was close to being agreed.

The Sunday Times reported that Europe was willing to include the “bare bones” of the arrangement within the Withdrawal Agreement – something it had previously warned was not legally possible.

The Irish version of the paper reported EU sources as warning that the deal was dependent on the UK signing up to a Northern Ireland specific backstop that would come into force if the wider agreement breaks down in later years.