- Theresa May accused of “total betrayal” over plans to accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop in the Brexit deal.
- The Democratic Unionist Party which props up the fragile and divided Conservative government is furious after receiving a letter from May which that refused to rule out a backstop for Northern Ireland alone.
- The DUP hates the Northern Ireland-only backstop as it would create an array of new checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
- DUP leader Arlene Foster said May’s letter “raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union.”
- May will meet with European leaders today as Brexit talks approach a conclusion.
LONDON – Theresa May has been accused of “total betrayal” after she revealed that she is likely to give into EU demands for a Northern Ireland-only “backstop” that could risk a post-Brexit border in the Irish sea.
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster told The Times that a letter she received from May this week about the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement “raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union.”
“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,” Foster, who leads the DUP’s 10 MPs in Westminster, added.
Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesperson, accused May of “total betrayal” and ditching the “promises she made” to the party, which has already threatened to withdraw its support for the embattled prime minister.
In a letter to the DUP sent this week, May said the EU was insisting that a backstop which keeps Northern Ireland wedded to the single market and customs union is included in the deal currently being negotiated in Brussels.
This backstop – designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland – would be the last resort option and come into effect only if future trade negotiations failed to produce a solution for preserving the open Irish border.
The DUP loathes this version of the backstop as it would create new customs and regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and force Northern Ireland to follow EU rules in which it would have no say.
May has asked for a UK-wide backstop to be included in the Withdrawal Agreement instead of the EU’s preferred Northern Ireland-only policy. This would prevent new customs checks between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
However, while the EU is willing to include a UK-wide backstop, it is adamant that the Northern Ireland-only backstop must be included too, to ensure the status quo in Ireland is maintained in all circumstances.
May’s letter to the DUP said that she “could not accept there being any circumstances or conditions” for the Northern Ireland-only backstop coming into effect. However, she did not rule out the backstop being signed into the Brexit deal.
A Brexit deal is currently being thrashed out in Brussels amid talk of a final agreement in the next week.
A senior EU source told Business Insider that “all of the activity is in London” with May desperate to get her Cabinet and Parliament as a whole on board with the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.
Prime Minister May already has a challenge on her hands in getting a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement through Westminster this winter with a majority of Labour MPs and some Conservatives set to vote against it.
However, without the support of the 10 DUP MPs in the House of Commons, May’s task would be even harder.
May will meet Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel this morning before heading to France where she will meet President Emmanuel Macron, who is one of EU’s the most hardline leaders when it comes to Brexit.