Thursday, 18 October, 2018

DUP’s Foster challenges May with 'blood red lines' over new Brexit ‘backstop’

Pro-European demonstrators wave flags made up of the EU flag and British Union flag
Credit
Chris Ratcliffe  Bloomberg Pro-European demonstrators wave flags made up of the EU flag and British Union flag Credit Chris Ratcliffe Bloomberg
Melinda Barton | 10 October, 2018, 22:13

DOWNING Street has played down expectations of an agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union at a summit next week, warning that "big issues" remain to be resolved.

But Foster refused to consider such a compromise on Tuesday, saying: "What we said to Barnier is checks of themselves are symptomatic of something different, so we only need checks if Northern Ireland is following a different regulatory regime to the rest of the UK".

Speaking in the European Parliament following a meeting with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, Mrs Foster said the Brexit talks were entering a "critical phase".

For industrial goods, he said it could be done by "market surveillance authorities" in company premises but he added that checks on animals and animal-derived products would still have to take place on the border.

But Mr Barnier's comments suggest there is still a long way to go before the crucial issues are settled.

There have been warnings that a so-called "hard border" will damage businesses and undermine peace in Northern Ireland.

If the DUP voted against it the government would face possible defeat, which could lead to a no-confidence vote.

For customs and VAT, Barnier said, "we propose using the existing customs procedures to avoid doing checks at the transit points".

The DUP was concerned after Mr Barnier reportedly told the party in Brussels this week that Great Britain is entitled to sign a traditional free trade deal with the EU.

The British government and leading politicians in Northern Ireland insist they will not agree to a withdrawal treaty that foresees the possibility of Northern Ireland being kept inside the EU's economic area while the British mainland is not.

That could destroy relations between Mrs May and the DUP - which has warned it has a "blood red" line on the issue.

The European Commission also looked at preparations among the 27 states for multiple disruptions that this would involve, including customs checks and duties kicking in immediately on all imports and exports.

According to one of the academics who conducted "The Future of England Study", unionists' preference for Brexit over the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom "raises questions about the type of union we're in, and indeed what unionism means". But since we can't guarantee the result right now, we have to prepare for all possible outcomes, ' one diplomat said.

Barnier told small business leaders that the talks were "continuing intensively this week, day and night, with the aim. of having a deal within reach, if we follow through to the end of this negotiations, on October 17". The sides will continue negotiations through the weekend with hopes for a breakthrough as early as Monday.