Belfast Telegraph

'Gaps remain' and 'further work required' on Brexit deal say DUP after eleventh hour PM meeting

Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster leave Downing Street (Aaron Chown/PA)
Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster leave Downing Street (Aaron Chown/PA)
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

The DUP has said that "gaps remain" and "further work is required" to reach a Brexit deal after a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday evening.

Party leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds met with the PM for around an hour and a half at Downing Street.

"We respect the fact negotiations are ongoing therefore cannot give a detailed commentary, but it would be fair to indicate gaps remain and further work is required," said a DUP statement after the meeting.

The EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier had set a deadline of midnight on Tuesday for any legal text to be agreed ahead of a deal.

He said it would be the last opportunity for a deal to be reached ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

The Prime Minister has vowed the UK will leave the European Union on October 31 with or without a deal, despite legislation being passed requiring him to ask for an extension in the event of no-deal.

The Guardian has reported senior sources saying that a draft treaty could be published on Wednesday morning after the UK agreed in principle there will be a customs border in the Irish Sea.

However prior to the meeting with the Prime Minister Arlene Foster rejected the claim.

"I think there's been a huge amount of speculation since the Prime Minister met with the Taoiseach last Thursday. Some of it so far off the mark you can't even see the mark anymore," she told told the BBC.

She reiterated that her party would not accept any deal that facilitated a customs border in the Irish Sea and said that a deal would need the support of Northern Ireland's nationalist and unionist communities.

Members of the hardline Brexiteer European Research Group also met with the PM on Tuesday. The group have been closely aligned with the DUP throughout the Brexit process.

Chairman Steve Baker said that his talks with the government had been "very constructive".

"I am optimistic that it is possible to reach a tolerable deal that I am able to vote for," he said.

On Tuesday evening Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said progress was being made in the closed-door Brexit talks taking place between the EU and UK in Brussels.

Mr Varadkar told reporters in Dublin it is "unclear" if a new deal will be struck by Tuesday night.

He said the gap remains "quite wide" between the EU and UK, particularly on the issue of customs arrangements on the island of Ireland.

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