UK PM draws fury of Northern Irish allies over Brexit

Theresa May set out her proposals in a letter seen by The Times

It would ensure an open border by keeping Northern Ireland inside the EU customs union and large parts of the single market.

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.

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.

The scope of any alignment with Brussels' rules would be limited to what is "strictly necessary" to avoid a hard border.

It would only be triggered if politicians fail to agree to the terms of a deal struck by the Prime Minister and Brussels, expected to be announced later this month.

Ms Foster said the DUP will not support a different regulatory regime for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

European Union officials are said to be concerned Mrs May will be unable to convince her Cabinet to sign up to the deal.

"There are stages to go through before it comes to Parliament", the DUP leader said.

It is meant to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland and the EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar have insisted it must be part of any United Kingdom withdrawal agreement.

Mr Varadkar also said: "I've no specific concerns about the communications that are happening between Prime Minister May and the DUP".

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May has asked for a UK-wide backstop to be included in the Withdrawal Agreement instead of the EU's preferred Northern Ireland-only policy.

If the Prime Minister agreed to such a plan DUP MPs would vote against the deal in Parliament, senior members of the party have warned, making it nearly impossible for Mrs May to win enough support for it to pass.

Brexit has come to the fore at today's meeting of the British Irish Council.

He said a UK-EU deal would involve "compromises, give and take on all sides" but when faced with "product on the table" in the form of an agreement backed by all 28 governments there could be a shift in attitude at Westminster.

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

"Even when all of that is done, then we begin the talks on the future relationship", he added.

"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".

"I think we really have to have regard to that as well".

Earlier Mr Varadkar said: "certainly the position of the Irish Government has always been that we don't want to see any new borders between us and that applies as much between Larne and Stranraer or between Belfast and London as it does between Newry and Dundalk". This would prevent new customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

"That is also equally important", said Ms Bradley.

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