DUP accuses May of breaking Brexit pledge over Irish Sea border

Theresa May set out her proposals in a letter seen by The Times

Theresa May set out her proposals in a letter seen by The Times

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.

It states that the EU has proposed a contingency plan to keep Northern Ireland tied to Brussels' customs union and single market if future trade talks are unsuccessful.

The plan emerged after Jo Johnson, a transport minister, resigned from the Government over Brexit and vowed to vote against Mrs May's deal in the House of Commons.

A huge amount of Ireland's trade with continental Europe passed through Welsh ports and across Britain on its way to Calais, while much of Northern Ireland's trade with the British mainland goes via Dublin port, and alternative routes by boat to Rotterdam, Antwerp and French ports were "much slower", he said.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said the issue of British Prime Minister Theresa May writing to the DUP was an internal United Kingdom matter, but said there was a real deep feeling of uncertainty among communities with regard to the border.

But the DUP has interpreted the wording of her letter to mean that the measure will be contained in the Brexit divorce deal despite Mrs May's insistence it will never come into effect.

Arlene Foster said her party would "not be able to support this if it came to Parliament in the form that it is in the letter".

Mr Varadkar also said: "I've no specific concerns about the communications that are happening between Prime Minister May and the DUP".

She wants a "backstop" measure which would create a temporary "joint customs territory" with the European Union for the whole of the UK.

A "backstop to the backstop" would involve only Northern Ireland remaining tied to the European Union in the event that a trade agreement could not be reached within the time limited period.

He said a UK-EU deal would involve "compromises, give and take on all sides" but when faced with "product on the table" in the form of an agreement backed by all 28 governments there could be a shift in attitude at Westminster.

"The time for DUP bluster, chest beating and hand wringing has long gone".

"People will need to ask themselves what is it that is going to be in the best interests of those who sent them to Westminster to represent them, to ensure that we maintain living standards and investment and prosperity and employment in our country".

Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mrs May's effective deputy prime minister David Lidington, and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley were attending a summit in the Isle of Man. "But I think beyond that you're into the New Year, which I think wouldn't be a good thing", the Irish PM warned.

Earlier Mr Varadkar said: "certainly the position of the Irish Government has always been that we don't want to see any new borders between us and that applies as much between Larne and Stranraer or between Belfast and London as it does between Newry and Dundalk".

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