May to hold Brexit War Cabinet to agree backstop plan

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Commenting on the Irish backstop, Barnier said the EU's plan to keep Northern Ireland in the Single Market and customs union would help keep the border invisible - a goal of both sets of negotiators.

On Wednesday night, DUP MPs abstained on a piece of agricultural legislation on which they had been expected to back the government, in a message to Prime Minister May that they are not bluffing. "She will not have DUP support, regardless of whether the government tries to bribe, bully or browbeat us into accepting it".

DUP leader Arlene Foster insisted on Tuesday that her party would not accept customs or regulatory checks on goods travelling in either direction between Northern Ireland and Great Britain after meeting European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told the BBC that his party "have got to see the text, we've got to be happy with the text" of any agreement on Northern Ireland.

The UK and the European Union have yet to strike a deal on how Brexit will work, with less than six months to go before the UK leaves on 29 March.

The support of the Unionist party is crucial to Mrs May, who agreed a "confidence and supply" deal with the DUP in the wake of losing her parliamentary majority in last June's snap election. No 10 made clear if the DUP voted down the Budget, Mrs May would not quit.

Mr Barnier told a business audience in Brussels that agreement on a withdrawal deal was "within reach" at the crunch October summit of the European Council next week, with "80-85 per cent" of the accord now finalised.

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Just minutes before the news broke that the DUP is considering voting down the budget, a Downing Street source was asked if Mrs May felt she could rely on DUP votes in parliament.

While the United Kingdom will effectively stay in the single market and customs union during the transition period up to December 2020, Brexiteers fear the new proposal would keep the United Kingdom in the customs union for years thereafter until a full trade deal could be agreed with the EU27.

Former prime minister John Major, whose career as leader was crushed partly by eurosceptics, said the behaviour of some of those Conservatives was "an intolerable way to treat a prime minister who's in the middle of negotiations".

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington is also due to hold Brexit meetings with figures from the UK's devolved administrations on Thursday.

Some Brexiteers say those proposals would ensure the EU kept control over swathes of the British economy and thus run counter to the spirit of her manifesto pledge to leave the EU Customs Union and the Single Market.

It's looking increasingly likely that if May is going to get a Brexit deal through Parliament, she will have to do so without the support of 9 DUP MPs.

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