The DUP are the largest Northern Irish Party in the House of Commons and have the joint most seats in the currently suspended Northern Ireland Assembly and currently back up the Tories in a confidence and supply agreement. The Times reports the party would for the first time be prepared to accept Northern Ireland to remain obligated to abide by some European Union rules as part of an alternative solution to the backstop issue. It is also understood the DUP could be prepared to drop objections to regulatory checks in the Irish Sea that it previously rejected as it would “politically and economically” separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
Brussels would in return to drop its insistence that Northern Ireland remain in a customs union and fast-track “alternative arrangements” to ensure the right level of duty is paid on imports and remove the need for physical infrastructure at the border.
One source from the Government described the DUP move as “significant” but did caution that a deal was still “a long way off”.
It is believed Mr Johnson discussed the plans with Republic of Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Monday, with the latter’s approval being a prerequisite for European leaders to take the proposal seriously.
The Government is also set to turbo charge its negotiating team with a Whitehall source saying: “There is an acknowledgement in Downing Street that if they can’t get an election, they need a deal.”
Mr Johnson twice called for a snap election and won both votes but due to a plethora of MPs abstaining he was unable to get the two-thirds majority he requires under the terms of the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act.
When Theresa May suggested a Northern Ireland only backstop in 2017, DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “We will not accept any form of regulatory divergence which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom.”
More to follow…
Published at Thu, 12 Sep 2019 23:00:00 +0000