DUP backing Brexit deal but PM faces Tory party unease
Nigel Dodds has welcomed Theresa May's Brexit proposals, saying they show commitment to "the political and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom with no borders between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom".
The DUP deputy leader said that the plan - thrashed out after a day of talks at Chequers on Friday - was "a welcome reaffirmation of what is an absolute priority for us".
The North Belfast MP said that the party would be examining the White Paper which is to be published this week and meeting the government to discuss the details.
He added: "Too much time has been wasted focusing on a backstop when the real matter of importance is the post-Brexit trading relationship. And the EU should remember that the biggest loser from a no deal exit is undoubtedly the Irish Republic."
Meanwhile, Tory Brexiteers have been urged to get behind Mrs May as she faced a backlash over her Chequers proposal.
Brexiteer Cabinet minister Michael Gove admitted the plan, which will see the UK tied to EU rules on goods, was not everything he had hoped for but he was a "realist" and the Prime Minister's lack of a Commons majority meant the "parliamentary arithmetic" was a factor in deciding what could be adopted.
All members of the Cabinet have signed up to the proposals, but backbench Brexiteers have hit out at the plans with speculation of a leadership challenge.
Meanwhile, it emerged that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson backed the proposals at Chequers despite claiming that defending the plans was like "polishing a turd" during the meeting.
Mr Gove said the Prime Minister "allowed us, during the course of a day, to share views, to share analyses and to look at this proposal in detail, but at the end of it collective responsibility reigns".
He admitted the compromise plan was a "perfect balance" between the need for close access to Europe and the ability for the services industry to diverge.
The Prime Minister faces a potentially stormy meeting with Tory MPs this evening, with reports that letters calling for a leadership contest have been submitted to the backbench 1922 Committee.
Meanwhile the National Crime Agency has warned that smugglers are "abusing" soft border controls between Ireland and the UK to get their human cargo past authorities.
Officials told The Independent they were concerned about an increase in the number of gangs found to be working through the common travel area, which the government has said it wants to maintain after Brexit.
Passports are not currently required for British and Irish citizens travelling between the two countries.
In January, six Indian nationals were arrested as they attempted to board flights to the UK from Ireland using counterfeit passports supplied by a man in Dublin.