Brexit: DUP accuses May of breaking promises on Irish border

Pressure British Prime Minister Theresa May

Pressure British Prime Minister Theresa May

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 party reacted angrily to a letter from Theresa May to DUP leader Arlene Foster, later leaked to the Times.

This so-called "backstop to the backstop" would see Northern Ireland become wedded to the EU single market and customs union should London and Brussels fail to strike a permanent trade deal.

In the letter, Mrs May explains the EU wants a contingency of Northern Ireland staying in a customs union if no border solution is found during the post-Brexit transition period.

Mrs May now relies on the support of ten DUP MPs to get key legislation, including Brexit, through Parliament as part of their confidence and supply agreement.

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.

At issue is the vexing problem of how to avoid border checks between British Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit enters into force on March 29.

The European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, front left, and Charles Flanagan, center, Minister for Foreign Affairs walk along the Irish border close to Castleblayney, Ireland, Friday, May 12, 2017.

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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.

What does the government say?

May depends on the 10 DUP MP votes for a majority in Westminster and will likely need them for any vote on a deal she strikes with Brussels.

Tensions between Mrs May and her DUP allies have been exposed amid concerns about measures aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

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

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.

Political leaders from across the United Kingdom and Ireland attended including the Cabinet Minister David Lidington and the Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

Speaking at the British-Irish Council summit on the Isle of Man, Mr Varadkar said he was hopeful a Brexit deal could be done by the end of the year but it would not amount to a "clean break" as talks would have to continue.

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