United Kingdom must be able to withdraw from Irish backstop — Liam Fox

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the UK Prime Minister appeared "wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea" despite Downing Street's assurances to the contrary.

According to The Times, the DUP have taken Mrs May's words to mean a Northern Ireland-only backstop arrangement will still be included in the legal text of the UK's divorce deal with the European Union, despite her assurance she will not allow it to "come into force".

The PM's five-page letter, leaked to The Times, was sent on Tuesday to Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, and Nigel Dodds, her deputy.

Such a move would avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The UK Prime Minister relies on the support of the DUP's 10 MPs for her Commons majority, votes which may become crucial as she attempts to get a deal through Parliament.

The EU has made concessions on the biggest hurdle in the talks - the Irish border backstop or an emergency fix to ensure the frontier there stays open regardless of how Brexit goes - but there are still differences on the life span of such a solution, a review mechanism or the depth of regulatory alliance under the all-UK backstop, which has been sought by London.

Mrs Foster said: '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.

'The government will not agree anything that brings about a hard border on the island of Ireland'.

The prime minister wrote: "They want to maintain a Northern Ireland-only "backstop to the backstop" in case the future negotiations are unsuccessful".

Downing Street has played down suggestions that a Brexit deal is imminent, after European Council president Donald Tusk appeared to indicate a breakthrough could come within the next week.

There had been reports that Cabinet will be called for a special session to approve the deal in the coming days. Your letter has raised a series of issues about the nature of the backstop.

A UK-wide customs deal would maintain quota-free and tariff-free access to European markets for the British fishing industry and in return the EU wants to keep continued access to United Kingdom waters for its trawlers, the newspaper said.

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