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DUP anger after May cosies up to Corbyn in bid to get Brexit deal passed

By Steven Alexander

Theresa May has been accused by the DUP of "sub-contracting out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn".

The party expressed its anger after it was announced that Brexit is set to be delayed again while the Prime Minister and Labour leader attempt to find a way out of the Commons impasse over how to leave the EU.

Mrs May said she would seek an extension beyond the current April 12 date to allow talks with Mr Corbyn aimed at ensuring the UK leaves the European Union "in a timely and orderly way".

She said the offer to Labour was an attempt to "break the logjam" after MPs rejected her withdrawal agreement three times and failed to back any of the alternative proposals considered so far.

Mr Corbyn said he would be "very happy" to meet the Prime Minister in a bid to offer "certainty and security" to the British people.

Should Mrs May find common ground with Mr Corbyn, it could remove the DUP's ability to affect the outcome of key Brexit votes and reduce its influence in Parliament.

In a furious statement the party said: "The Prime Minister's lamentable handling of the negotiations with the EU means she has failed to deliver a sensible Brexit deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom.

"That is why she has not been able to get it through Parliament.

"Her announcement therefore tonight comes as little surprise. Though it remains to be seen if sub-contracting out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn, someone whom the Conservatives have demonised for four years, will end happily.

"We want the result of the referendum respected, and just as we joined the Common Market as one country we must leave the EU as one country.

"We will continue to use our position within Parliament and with the Government to argue strongly the case for Northern Ireland and the integrity of the United Kingdom.

"We remain consistent in judging all Brexit outcomes against our clear unionist principles."

Speaking earlier in 10 Downing Street after a marathon session of Cabinet lasting over seven hours - which was described as "divisive" and "tense" by one source - Mrs May said that any further delay to Brexit should be "as short as possible".

A Bill to pave the way for departure would have to be in place by May 22 to ensure the UK did not have to take part in European elections.

Any new proposal would have to accept the withdrawal agreement - including its controversial backstop arrangement - and focus on amendments to the Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relationship, she said.

Making her offer to Mr Corbyn she said the "ideal outcome" would be to agree an approach to the future relationship that both leaders could back and which she could then take to her 27 EU counterparts at a summit next week. If that was impossible, then the two leaders could instead propose a "number of options" for the future relationship which would be put to a series of votes in the Commons.

"Crucially, the Government stands ready to abide by the decision of the House," she said. "But to make this process work, the Opposition would need to agree to this too."

She added: "This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands and it will require national unity to deliver the national interest."

Sinn Fein said that the only way to avoid a no-deal Brexit is the withdrawal agreement.

"That is not open for renegotiation. The DUP and British Parliament need to realise this," Foyle MP Elisha McCallion said.

"Theresa May had said she will ask for an extension but it cannot be an extension for no reason. The British Parliament cannot continue to keep talking to itself about fantasy options that aren't on the table."

TUV leader Jim Allister said that "if the answer is Jeremy Corbyn, Mrs May is on the wrong side of history".

"Mrs May's capacity for humiliation knows no bounds. Now she's to go cap in hand to Corbyn. What could possibly go wrong?

"It is clear the Prime Minister is now prepared to sacrifice her own party to get her deal through.

"The interests of the Union now align with getting Mrs May out of Downing Street."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said he was "glad Theresa May has decided to ditch the ERG and DUP version of Brexit". He tweeted: "Really important now that we see real leadership from across the Westminster Parliament. The bottom line is still clear - the Good Friday Agreement and frictionless border needs to be protected."

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