Brexit: British Prime Minister Theresa May faces backlash from within Cabinet

Mae Love
October 12, 2018

The Irish border "backstop", which seeks a way to avoid customs checks on the frontier between the British province of Northern Ireland and Ireland if there is no overall exit deal, has become the biggest sticking point in negotiations.

The deal believed to be on the table involves keeping the whole United Kingdom in an "arrangement" that effectively preserves the existing EU customs union, ensuring the goods continue to move freely over the Irish land border regardless of the future trade relationship between London and Brussels.

Theresa May will on Thursday ask her Brexit "war Cabinet" to agree a backstop plan that would keep Britain in a customs union with Brussels until a permanent trade deal can be agreed.

Mr Wilson said his party had "a duty to use whatever influence we have" to protect Northern Ireland's place within the Union.

According to reports, global trade minister Liam Fox, home minister Sajid Javid, defence minister Gavin Williamson, foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, environment minister Michael Gove and Brexit minister Dominic Raab have challenged the PM over fears she will accept an unlimited backstop.

Sammy Wilson, the DUP's Brexit spokesman, warned the PM was pursuing "the road to parliamentary defeat" because his party would vote against any deal that included the proposed backstop, branded a "sell-out".

The DUP has threatened to withdraw its support for the government if it is not happy with the final Brexit deal.

But Tory MP Helen Grant, a Tory vice chairwoman, told the BBC's Politics Live: "I think they're bluffing".

Mr Coveney said: "It is a deal breaker".

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Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, who wasn't at the meeting, has repeatedly refused to endorse the prime minister's Chequers blueprint for Brexit.

However Brexiteers - including UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab - are insisting any arrangement which would see the UK effectively remain part of the customs union while negotiations over a free trade deal take place must be strictly time-limited - something the EU has been resisting.

"An agreement is within reach", he said.

Britain is set to leave the European Union on March 29, 2019, with the United Kingdom government expected to propose a divorce deal by the end of October.

The South Belfast MP added that if a "sensible Brexit" was not delivered, the DUP's support for Mrs May would not be forthcoming.

Following three days of talks with key figures in Brussels, DUP leader Arlene Foster said Mrs May could not in "good conscience" accept the proposals now on the table from the European Union.

On Thursday, The Sun newspaper quoted Downing Street sources as saying that any move by the DUP to vote against the budget due at the end of this month "would be a clear breach of the Tory-DUP confidence and supply agreement - meaning Ulster would also have to pay back its £1bn bonus from the government".

Without a time limit, critics say Britain could be tied to the European Union indefinitely unable to negotiate free trade deals with other countries.

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