Update: Theresa May urged to reflect on Brexit stance by DUP leader Arlene Foster

Latest 7.15pm: Arlene Foster has urged the British Prime Minister to reflect on her Brexit stance as she warned that the DUP will oppose her current proposals if they go to a parliamentary vote.

The DUP leader said “no unionist” could back Theresa May’s apparent advocacy of a withdrawal treaty that includes a Northern Ireland specific backstop measure to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

In a letter to the DUP, which was leaked to the media, Mrs May insisted such a backstop would never come into force.

Mrs Foster said her party was fundamentally opposed to any divorce deal that saw Northern Ireland operate under a different regulatory arrangement to the rest of the UK.

It's not a question of trusting the Prime Minister, it is a question of what her proposals are for exiting the European Union

Stormont’s former first minister insisted there were “many others” in the Conservative Party who could also not support the Prime Minister’s proposals.

“We would not be able to support this if it came to Parliament in the form that it is in the letter,” the DUP leader said.

“There are stages to go through before it comes to Parliament. She still has to have a cabinet meeting in relation to this matter and we believe there is a chance for her to reflect on the fact we will not be able to support it in its current form.”

In an interview with the BBC, Mrs Foster was asked did she trust Mrs May.

The DUP leader replied: “It’s not a question of trusting the Prime Minister, it is a question of what her proposals are for exiting the European Union.

“She has sent us where she believes she is currently at, and remember this is before she goes to Brussels to negotiate with them on what they believe is possible, but currently, as it stands, we could not support her proposals.”

Mrs Foster added: “Not only would we not be able to support what she has said to us but there are many others who would not be able to support it in her own party as well.”

She denied her party’s confidence and supply deal with the Tories was on “shaky ground”.

“I don’t think it leaves it on shaky ground because of course the confidence and supply agreement was entered into at a time of great national instability, we wanted to see stability in the Government at that time and we also wanted to deliver on a Brexit vote that had been taken.

“We don’t believe that the Prime Minister’s letter shows that we are delivering on that Brexit vote, so we will have to revisit all of that if this goes to a meaningful vote.”

She said the DUP would be asking for clarification of Mrs May’s intentions in further correspondence being sent to Downing Street on Friday night.

- Press Association

Earlier: 'No clean break' on Brexit, but Taoiseach hopeful of deal

Latest 2.30pm: The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said there is "no clean break" on Brexit, but he remains hopeful of a deal.

He was speaking at a meeting of the British Irish Council (BIC) on the Isle of Man.

The British government was represented by Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington, as well as the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley.

Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands were represented by their heads of administration.

Mr Varadkar also held bilateral talks with Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones, who was attending his last BIC Summit before he steps down.

Brexit, the Common Travel Area and relations with the EU were discussed.

The council also talked about the current political situation in Northern Ireland.

The Taoiseach expressed regret that, until the Stormont Executive is restored, Northern Ireland is without political representation.

Earlier: DUP fury with May over prospect of Brexit ‘Irish Sea border’

Theresa May’s Brexit plans have been dealt a blow as her Democratic Unionist Party allies hit out at fears that a deal could impose barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the Prime Minister appeared “wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea” despite Downing Street’s repeated assurances to the contrary.

The response of the DUP has caused frustration in Downing Street, with sources insisting that Mrs May was not hiding behind “weasel words” and had stressed that she would not accept a deal which saw Northern Ireland hived off.

The European Union’s fallback proposal aimed at avoiding a hard border between Ireland and the UK would effectively keep Northern Ireland aligned with Brussels’ customs union and single market.

A leaked letter from the Prime Minister in reply to an earlier message from Mrs Foster and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, set out Mrs May’s approach.

She wants a “backstop” measure which would create a temporary “joint customs territory” with the EU for the whole of the UK.

But Brussels appears set to insist on a Northern Ireland-only “backstop to the backstop” in case negotiations on a wider UK approach break down or any time limit on it expires.

In the letter, obtained by the Times, Mrs May said: “I am clear that I could not accept there being any circumstances or conditions in which that ‘backstop to the backstop’, which would break up the UK customs territory, could come in to force.”

But she acknowledged that the “unique circumstances” of Northern Ireland “could require specific alignment solutions in some scenarios” on regulations.

The scope of any alignment with Brussels’ rules would be limited to what is “strictly necessary” to avoid a hard border.

The DUP has interpreted the wording of her letter to mean that Northern Ireland-only measures will be contained in the Brexit divorce deal despite Mrs May’s insistence it will never come into effect.

Theresa May depends on the 10 MPs from Arlene Foster’s DUP to support her minority administration (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

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.

“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.”

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said “we want to trust the Prime Minister” but “you have to judge any promise by what is actually delivered in an agreement”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the letter “makes it quite clear the Government has accepted there will be a Northern Ireland-only backstop, that that backstop will require specific alignment for regulations” without Northern Ireland being given a say.

“That, to us, is a breach of the promise which has been made that we would not be cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom,” he said.

The 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.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister’s letter sets out her commitment, which she has been absolutely clear about on any number of occasions, to never accepting any circumstances in which the UK is divided into two customs territories.

“The Government will not agree anything that brings about a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

Any version of the backstop would apply unless and until a wider UK-EU deal on the future relationship solved the issue of how to avoid a hard border with Ireland.

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.

A senior source said: “It does not feel to me like things are going to move today.”

Cabinet ministers have been on stand-by for an emergency session to review any potential deal, but the source said that “nothing is going to happen” in terms of a meeting over the weekend.

A potential sticking point could be demands for EU fishing fleets to be given continued access to British coastal waters as the price for agreeing to Mrs May’s UK-wide backstop, the Daily Telegraph reported.

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 UK waters for its trawlers, the newspaper said.

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.

Brexit is expected to dominate the agenda of the British Irish Council, which also involves the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones.

Earlier: Update: DUP warns of 'consequences' for Theresa May over Irish Sea border plan

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has said the DUP intends to hold British Prime Minister Theresa May to the commitments she made to them over Brexit and the backstop.

He was commenting following the publication of a leaked letter from Mrs May to DUP leader Arlene Foster which set out her approach to a backstop.

In the letter, obtained by The Times, Mrs May said: “I am clear that I could not accept there being any circumstances or conditions in which that ‘backstop to the backstop’, which would break up the UK customs territory, could come in to force.”

However, 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.

Mr Wilson told RTE Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show “the battle is not lost. Even if she gets it through the Cabinet, she will lose it in the House of Commons.

“There will be consequences if the government breaks its side of the agreement.

“This letter raises concerns. But nothing is proposed yet, we will make a judgment on the facts of the case.

"The promise that the Northern Ireland Assembly would have a veto over any regulations which the EU may wish to impose upon Northern Ireland has been removed."

He said that the British government has to abide by the vote of the people, who had voted for Brexit. He went on to warn that a no-deal scenario would be “extremely damaging” to the economy of the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Wilson said he was concerned that once a legal backdrop is signed up to, “we know the direction that the EU will be heading in. They will veto it ever being removed.”

“That’s the harsh reality. All the Prime Minister’s points (in the letter) are aspirational. The backstop will be legal.”

Mr Wilson also said that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was “unhelpful” and had “stirred up a lot of animosity” with his warnings about “the lights being turned off in Northern Ireland” and that planes could not fly over Ireland, terming it “all that nonsense.”

He said that what was being proposed on the backstop would give more power to the European Union “and we’d have no say.”

“The ultimate safeguard would be for Northern Ireland to have the final say. We are particularly worried that that has been removed.

Why would you cut out the Northern Ireland Assembly if you’re going to introduce something that they won’t like?

He said that Northern Ireland's specific concerns are that Mrs May is "accepting this nonsense which is being demanded by your own Taoiseach and EU negotiators that there's got to be a specific Northern Ireland backstop.

"The Northern Ireland backstop would have to include and have scope for aligning regulations.

"There will be no ability for the UK to decide when that backstop would be ended."

Mr Wilson said another referendum would not solve the problem, people would have the same information and would make the same decision, he claimed.

Earlier: DUP accuses Theresa May of 'total betrayal' amid reports of Irish Sea border plan

The British Prime Minister Theresa May is being accused of breaking her promise to ensure Northern Ireland is not divided from the rest of the UK after Brexit.

The Times of London says its seen a letter from Mrs May to the DUP, suggesting there could be a border in the Irish Sea if there is no deal with the EU.

It would involve the North staying in the customs union and single market if negotiations collapse.

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

The European Union’s fallback proposal aimed at avoiding a hard border between Ireland and the UK would effectively keep Northern Ireland aligned with Brussels’s customs union and single market.

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

A leaked letter from the Prime Minister to Mrs Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds set out Mrs May’s approach.

She wants a “backstop” measure which would create a temporary “joint customs territory” with the EU for the whole of the UK.

But Brussels appears set to insist on a Northern Ireland-only “backstop to the backstop” in case negotiations on a wider UK approach break down.

In the letter, obtained by The Times, Mrs May said: “I am clear that I could not accept there being any circumstances or conditions in which that ‘backstop to the backstop’, which would break up the UK customs territory, could come in to force.”

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.

Theresa May depends on the votes of the 10 MPs from Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionist Party (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

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.

“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.”

The 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.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister’s letter sets out her commitment, which she has been absolutely clear about on any number of occasions, to never accepting any circumstances in which the UK is divided into two customs territories.

“The Government will not agree anything that brings about a hard border on the island of Ireland.”

Any version of the backstop would apply unless and until a wider UK-EU deal on the future relationship solved the issue of how to avoid a hard border with Ireland.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mrs May’s effective deputy prime minister David Lidington and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley will attend a summit on the Isle of Man today.

Brexit is expected to dominate the agenda of the British Irish Council, which also involves the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones.

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.

A senior UK Government source said that reports in the European media that a deal could come in the next few days should be taken “with a very large pinch of salt”.

A potential sticking point could be demands for EU fishing fleets to be given continued access to British coastal waters as the price for agreeing to Mrs May’s UK-wide backstop, the Daily Telegraph reported.

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 UK waters for its trawlers, the newspaper said.

- Press Association

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