Belfast Telegraph

It's carry on talking as DUP says PM in 'listening mode' over its backstop concerns

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds outside Downing Street yesterday
DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds outside Downing Street yesterday

By Suzanne Breen, Political Editor

The DUP will be continuing talks with the Government over coming days as the party yesterday said the Prime Minister was "in listening mode" after it met her in Downing Street.

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said Theresa May was in a very difficult situation in Parliament following the defeat of her Brexit plan, but there was a "way through this".

He said: "The problem for a lot of her own backbenchers, and of course for us, has been the backstop.

"If she can address that issue in a satisfactory way, and if the EU realise this is the issue holding up the withdrawal agreement, we can make progress."

Mrs May is to bring her Brexit Plan B to the House of Commons on Monday, with a full debate and key vote on it due on Tuesday, January 29.

Mr Dodds said the details on how progress could be made were under discussion, but it was not "useful to give too much of a running comment on the details of that".

He said there were "a lot of good engagements going on and we'll continue to work at it".

Mr Dodds added: "The Prime Minister is in listening mode. Obviously, given the events of the last few days, that's absolutely vital.

"We want a deal that works for the UK and all constituent parts of it."

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "We have had another very useful engagement with the Prime Minister. I don't think it's useful to give a running commentary on these issues. Everybody knows what our issue is in relation to the current withdrawal agreement and it is around the toxicity of the backstop that is currently there. So we need to deal with that issue and we need to deal with it in a very clear way."

She said her party's problem with the backstop was that it "separates Northern Ireland out from the rest of the UK".

She added: "We have a clear ask to the European Union around it."

DUP votes were vital in ensuring the Government was not defeated in Labour's motion of no confidence on Wednesday night. Mrs May survived by 325-306 and, had the DUP voted in favour, Jeremy Corbyn's motion would have succeeded.

Meanwhile, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said a no-deal Brexit would become an exercise in damage limitation for the Republic.

Speaking in the Dail yesterday, he said Dublin would be intensifying its contingency preparations for a no-deal outcome. "Managing a no-deal Brexit would be an exercise in damage limitation," he told TDs.

"It would be impossible in a no-deal scenario to maintain the current seamless arrangements between the EU and UK across a full range of sectors, which is currently facilitated by our common EU membership."

However, he also described Ireland's obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and the EU single market as "competing responsibilities".

He told the Dail: "We are not going to be supporting border infrastructure even in a no-deal scenario", adding the issue was "highly political and highly sensitive".

Mr Coveney said the EU would continue to seek to be as helpful as possible, but the withdrawal agreement was not open for renegotiation.

"The backstop is an essential part of the withdrawal agreement," he said.

"It acts as an insurance policy, to ensure that there is no hard border on this island following Brexit. It is essential."

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