DUP 'to back proposal' that swaps backstop for new arrangement
The DUP may give its support to an amendment to Theresa May's Brexit deal that bins the border backstop.
A senior source last night told the Belfast Telegraph that the party could vote for an amendment supported by 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady, which swaps the backstop for "alternative arrangements" to avoid a hard border.
If this proposal was supported by a majority in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister would then present it as the way forward to Brussels.
It is reportedly backed by Mrs May's former deputy Damian Green and Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chair Andrew Murrison.
The DUP source said the plan currently looked like the best way of breaking the Brexit impasse.
Those behind the amendment believe it would command the support of the vast majority of Tory MPs. The Commons is due to vote on Mrs May's Brexit Plan B on Tuesday.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said his party was continuing to work with Brussels and the EU to reach a Brexit deal which can secure the support of Parliament.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Dodds called for a "constructive spirit of engagement" from the EU in a genuine effort to reach consensus for a deal.
He welcomed comments by the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Wednesday as "realistic". Mr Barnier said: "We will have to find an operational way of carrying out checks and controls without putting back in place a border.
"We would be obliged to carry out controls on goods arriving in the Republic of Ireland.
"My team have worked hard to study how controls can be made paperless or decentralised, which will be useful in all circumstances."
Mr Dodds said: "I am encouraged by Michel Barnier's new and more realistic approach. It is a long way from the dramatic language EU spokespeople were using this time last year.
"We need to see more of this kind of spirit in the negotiations. It is only when the EU comes to the table with a constructive mindset that there will be real progress towards a mutually beneficial deal."
The DUP deputy leader said he wanted to reach a consensus "which respects the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom and which also works for our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland".
He continued: "Whether it is the Lithuanian, Polish, or indeed the EU Commission's chief spokesman, there have been several signals that people are prepared to look at other options. That is positive as it shows people are starting to be more realistic.
"We continue to work with our Government in an effort to reach a better deal which can command support in the House of Commons but also importantly in Brussels too.
"The trap of the backstop is the problem. There are ways forward which do not require this backstop and we need to see a willingness to explore such options."
It was disclosed yesterday that DUP leader Arlene Foster, Mr Dodds and their spouses were special guests of the Prime Minister for dinner last weekend.
They were invited to dine with Mrs May and her husband Philip at Chequers in what the DUP said was a "long-standing" social engagement, though they did not stay overnight.
But the dinner will be seen as an attempt to woo the DUP and build bridges after the disastrous Brexit vote earlier this month in which the Government was defeated by a 230-majority, including Mrs Foster's 10 MPs.