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We're still influential, says DUP as May turns to Corbyn to get Brexit deal through

The DUP has denied its influence in Parliament has diminished as Theresa May looks to the Labour Party to get support for her Brexit deal.

MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the party was  "un-persuadable" and will stand firm on its Brexit red lines.

It comes as the prime minister is expected to meet Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday in a bid to broker agreement on finding a resolution to the impasse that has put a stranglehold on parliament.

Mrs May said on Tuesday that she would seek an extension beyond next week to allow negotiations with the Labour leader aimed at ensuring the UK leaves the European Union "in a timely and orderly way".

However, she ruled out ditching the hated backstop saying "any plan would have to agree the current withdrawal agreement".

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said Theresa May's decision to reach out to Labour would likely cause further division in Jeremy Corbyn's party.

He said the DUP could not support anything that separated Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

"It would be economically disastrous if we were to have a trade border in the Irish Sea."

He told the BBC: "Certainly when it comes to undermining the Union and Northern Ireland's place in the UK we are un-persuadable.

"We are a unionist party we will not support anything that separates us from the rest of Great Britain, from our most important market."

Sir Jeffrey said his party was not arguing for a no-deal Brexit but pushing for the prime minister to get a deal by addressing the issue of the backstop. He again reiterated his party's believe the Brady amendment was the way to get a deal approved by MPs. That amendment - which was passed in the Commons - dispensed with the backstop in favour of looking for "alternative arrangements".

He continued: "They are not just our concerns, they are concerns of many MPs across the House of Commons ... we need at the very least a time limit on that backstop.

Asked on the DUP's position as the government's minor partners in government and their influence, the Lagan Valley MP responded: "This is a movable feast. I wouldn't be predicting that anyone is being isolated. The DUP continues to be in a very influential position.

"Remember the government is now down to a working majority of four seats and that includes the 10 DUP seats.

"We will continue to look after the interests of Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole.. and that is why we are opposed to the backstop."

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, but Tory Brexiteers reacted with anger.

Jacob Rees-Mogg described the offer as "deeply unsatisfactory" and accused Mrs May of planning to collaborate with "a known Marxist".

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said: "It is very disappointing that the Cabinet has decided to entrust the final handling of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party."

Conservative MP Henry Smith said Mrs May represents a "monumental failure of British leadership, a betrayal of the majority who voted to leave the EU and Conservative Party membership", and added that he could not "countenance her Corbyn/Brexit process".

Meanwhile on Wednesday, the European Union will hold the first of a series of briefings on Brexit preparedness, while European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will speak about the UK's withdrawal in Brussels.

European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt, who had said he thought a no-deal Brexit was "nearly inevitable", welcomed Mrs May's offer of talks with Mr Corbyn.

"Good that PM @theresa_may is looking for a cross-party compromise. Better late than never," he tweeted.

If the European Council proposes an extension beyond May 22, it is understood that it would be possible for the UK to take the steps necessary to prepare for European Parliament elections on May 23, but then cancel them at the last minute if the withdrawal deal was ratified.

Following the mammoth Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, one source said ministers were split 14-10 against asking for a long extension to the Brexit process.

But a second Cabinet source said ministers spoke 17-4 in favour of the limited extension sought by the Prime Minister, with just Gavin Williamson, Penny Mordaunt, Chris Grayling and Liz Truss opposed to the measure.

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