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Arlene Foster: If backstop isn't removed, Brexit deal won't get DUP support

“Bin it, junk the backstop” – the hard-fought-for Irish assurance could be the reason the Brexit deal won’t be passed.

Image: BBC

DUP LEADER ARLENE Foster has said that Prime Minister Theresa May will need to remove backstop provisions in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

If those references that would treat Northern Ireland differently than the rest of the UK in the absence of a closely-tied customs deal and trading arrangement, then the DUP will not vote in favour of the deal in the House of Commons in the coming weeks, she said.

But she also added that the DUP could consider a Norway-style deal as a way to prevent Northern Ireland being treated differently to the rest of the UK, in which the UK would join the European Economic Area and stay aligned to the single market.

“Well, there are conversations going on right across government,” she said when asked about that proposal.

Ten DUP MPs are supporting Theresa May’s government since a snap election following the EU referendum in 2016. In exchange for the DUP’s support, May promised €1.1 billion in extra funding for Northern Ireland. 

But if the DUP don’t get what they want from the Brexit deal, they could collapse May’s government and trigger an election in the middle of Brexit talks. 

Speaking on the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show today, Foster said that as it stands now, the deal they have with May “is still alive”. 

But if it came to a situation where parliament did decide to back this deal, then obviously we will have to review the confidence and supply agreement.

Theresa May is going to have a tough job getting the Brexit deal through the House of Commons – this has to be done before the parliament recess on the 21 December.

As it stands now, she doesn’t have enough MPs to pass the deal through the House; reports earlier this year suggested she was trying to lobby Labour MPs to pass the deal.

When asked if there were any circumstances in which the DUP’s 10 MPs could vote for the deal, Foster replied: “No, there aren’t.”

As far as I can see there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of enthusiasm in the House of Commons for this deal, quite the contrary. So let’s wait until we get to that vote. I don’t see any circumstances at present where that vote will be a vote to go ahead in Theresa May’s favour.

Yesterday at the DUP’s annual conference, the former UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, said that they should “junk the backstop”.

“Unless we junk this backstop, we are going to find that Brussels has got us exactly where they want us: a satellite state,” Johnson said.

Earlier, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said that it was time to “bin the backstop”.

The backstop aims to avoid a hard border between the Republican and Northern Ireland by keeping the North under some EU rules and regulations.

The DUP has criticised the plan as the party believes it threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom and could lead to a customs border in the Irish Sea.

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