A letter from Theresa May has led DUP leaders to fear she will renege on a promise to prevent any division between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK
JACK TAYLOR/GETTY IMAGES
Sam Coates, Deputy Political Editor
November 8 2018, 10:00pm
The five-page letter, leaked to The Times, was sent on Tuesday from Mrs May to Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, and Nigel Dodds, her deputy.
In it, the prime minister says that the EU is still pushing for the “backstop to the backstop” but insists that she would never allow a divide between Ulster and Great Britain to “come into force”.
A Brussels plan to put a customs border in the Irish Sea if there is no Brexit agreement will be included in a divorce deal, a leaked letter from Theresa May suggests.
The prime minister was accused last night of breaking her promise to the Democratic Unionist Party that she would never sign up to a deal that could allow Northern Ireland to be divided from the rest of the United Kingdom.
The European plan, known as the “backstop to the backstop”, would leave Northern Ireland tied to the single market and customs union if Brexit talks collapse. Brussels wants this insurance policy to avoid a hard border in Ireland. Mrs May has previously said that no UK prime minister could ever agree to such a plan.
This wording has been interpreted by the DUP to mean that the clause will nevertheless be inserted into the legally binding agreement.
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 letter also says that the government does “not expect regulations to diverge between Great Britain and Northern Ireland” during the backstop, meaning the whole of the UK will be tied closely to European rules.