PM 'set to agree Irish Sea border' - Theresa May letter rings 'alarm bells,' says Foster
Theresa May has been accused of breaking her promise to the DUP that she would never sign up to a Brexit deal that separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
A letter from the Prime Minister has been interpreted by DUP leader Arlene Foster to mean that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Northern Ireland would be separated from the rest of the UK by a customs border in the Irish Sea.
The PM’s letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious union & for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole UK. From her letter, it appears the PM is wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea with NI in the EU SM regulatory regime. https://t.co/qN6c41zx7U— Arlene Foster (@DUPleader) November 9, 2018
2/2 1st November 2018 letter from Arlene Foster @DUPleader & Nigel @NigelDoddsDUP to the Prime Minister. "It is vital for both NI & the entire UK that if agreement is reached, it must be clear and must not risk opening divergence within the UK for generations to come." pic.twitter.com/gCcvp01p8O— DUP (@duponline) November 9, 2018
According to The Times, which obtained the five-page letter also sent to DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, Mrs May stated that the EU is still pushing for the "backstop to the backstop", but insists she would not allow a divide to "come into force" between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The newspaper said this had been interpreted by the DUP to mean that the EU proposal will become part of the legally binding withdrawal agreement.
"The Prime Minister's letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole of the UK," Mrs Foster told The Times. "It appears the Prime Minister is wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea with Northern Ireland in the EU single market regulatory regime."
Mrs May had previously indicated that she would never sign up to a Brexit deal that created barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
It was one of the 'red lines' the DUP had warned the Prime Minister not to cross if she wanted its MPs to continue to support the Conservatives in Westminster as part of their confidence and supply deal.
Without the backing of the 10 DUP MPs for key votes such as budgets, Mrs May and her Government face major difficulties - not least getting her Brexit plan through Parliament.
The leaked letter also suggests that the whole of the UK could remain closely tied to EU, as the Government does "not expect regulations to diverge between Great Britain and Northern Ireland".
In her letter, Mrs May wrote that the backstop was "an insurance policy that no-one in the UK or the EU wants or expects to use" and that it would not last indefinitely.
A Downing Street spokesman told The Times that the Prime Minister would not agree to anything that separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
"The Prime Minister's letter sets out her commitment, which she has been absolutely clear about on any number of occasions, to never accepting any circumstances in which the UK is divided into two customs territories. The Government will not agree anything that brings about a hard border on the island of Ireland."