May’s Northern Ireland backers denounce ‘broken’ Brexit promise

Theresa May has gone back on a “promise” to her Democratic Unionist Party backers about the nature of the “backstop” clause to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland if U.K.-EU Brexit negotiations fail, the party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said Friday.

May has said repeatedly that the EU’s backstop proposal to keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs zone if Brexit talks collapse is unacceptable because it would create an economic border within the U.K.

But in a leaked letter to DUP leader Arlene Foster, seen by The Times newspaper, May said she would never allow the EU’s backstop plan to keep Northern Ireland inside the EU’s customs territory if no other solution to the border issue can be found to come “into force.”

In her letter, May wrote: “We should be clear that a time limit on a U.K.-wide customs arrangement that simply resulted in a NI [Northern Ireland] only “backstop to the backstop” coming into force would be totally unacceptable.”

The DUP interprets that wording as meaning that the EU’s backstop will nonetheless be included in the Withdrawal Agreement in some form.

“That to us is a breach of the promise that we [in Northern Ireland] would not be cut off from the rest of the U.K.,” Wilson told BBC Radio’s Today Program.

“The letter [from May to Foster] makes clear that the government has accepted there will be a Northern Ireland-only backstop,” said Wilson, “And the promise that was made in the agreement in December —  that if there was to be any regulatory alignment the NI assembly would have a say — that seems to have been removed as well.”

Wilson said the DUP wanted to trust the prime minister, but he said, “you have to judge any promise by what is actually delivered in an agreement.”


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