Belfast Telegraph

Don’t be bullied by Brussels into a compromise on the border, DUP's Dodds urges Prime Minister

By Mark Bain

The DUP's Nigel Dodds has said Theresa May "must not be bullied by the unreasonable and inflexible approach of the EU to Brexit negotiations" after it was revealed the Prime Minister is set to make a major new compromise in a bid to break the deadlock over the Irish border.

The Independent reported that under proposals to be brought forward by the UK government, Britain is expected to accept some checks taking place between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

But North Belfast MP Mr Dodds said: "The DUP is focused on ensuring the preservation of the political, constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom. That is the absolute priority for us."

Mrs May remains wedded to her Brexit plan despite being told it "will not work" at a summit of European Union leaders.

The Prime Minister said her Chequers blueprint is the only proposal on the table as the deadline approaches, with the next leaders' meeting in October set to be a "moment of truth".

But she indicated the UK will unveil new measures on the future status of the Irish border in a bid to break the deadlock.

Speaking at the end of the two-day EU summit in Austria - during which she had a meeting with Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar - Mrs May said the UK will "shortly" come forward with new proposals on the so-called "backstop" arrangements for implementation at the border if no long-term solution is found.

She said she is working towards an October date but privately told Mr Varadkar she did not think she could have proposals on the backstop ready for then. At their bilateral she was told time is running short and was pressed to bring forward her alternative as soon as possible.

But Mr Dodds warned: "Amid some speculation coming out of Salzburg about border issues, people need to remember that the December Joint Report, which is the basis for the so-called backstop through Article 49, also contained an explicit commitment in Article 50. "This states that the United Kingdom will ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom."

One possible concession revealed by the Independent could see customs compliance checks away from Irish Sea ports, but not regulatory checks. The EU has also suggested that "most checks can take place away from the border at the company premises or in the markets".

The combination of concessions - with Britain accepting regulatory checks at ports and the EU moving some customs checks in-land - appears to clear the path for a potential solution.

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said previously that trade barriers put up between Northern Ireland Great Britain is a red line for her.

Speaking after a meeting with European Council president Donald Tusk, the PM said: "We both agree there can be no withdrawal agreement without a legally-operative backstop. But that backstop cannot divide the United Kingdom into two customs territories, and we will be bringing forward our own proposals shortly.

"On the economic partnership, there is no solution that will resolve the Northern Ireland border which is not based on the frictionless movement of goods. Our White Paper remains the only serious and credible proposition on the table for achieving that objective."

Mr Varadkar didn't want to comment on potential UK concessions without having anything in writing, but spoke of "there being verbal briefings and being promised that certain things would happen then when the documents arrive they are not quite what we expected..."

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