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Sat, 11 July 2020

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DUP warn Boris Johnson 'gaps remain' in his Brexit plans as talks go to the wire

DUP warn Boris Johnson 'gaps remain' in his Brexit plans as talks go to the wire
2 min read

Boris Johnson has been warned by the DUP that they still cannot support his Brexit plans, less than 48 hours before a crunch EU summit.

Following 90 minutes of talks in Downing Street, Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds emerged without having given the Prime Minister their backing.

Earlier, Ms Foster had insisted that they would not support any proposals that led to a customs border in the Irish Sea, amid reports Mr Johnson had made that key concession to Brussels.

In a statement following the Number 10 meeting, a DUP spokesman said: "We respect the fact negotiations are ongoing, therefore cannot give a detailed commentary. but it would be fair to indicate gaps remain and further work is required."

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, had set a deadline of midnight on Tuesday for any deal to be done so that a legal text could be prepared in time to be presented to leaders gathering for the European Council summit on Thursday.

Several reports suggested Mr Johnson was on the brink of a Brexit breakthrough after making major concessions to the EU.

Bloomberg quoted two EU officials suggesting the UK had accepted customs checks would have to take place on goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a solution previously ruled out by the DUP and Theresa May.

Speaking ahead of her meeting with Mr Johnson, Arlene Foster appeared to pour cold water on that proposal.

She said: "It's very important that we say that we must remain in the United Kingdom customs union. It's a principle that we have, it's a principle that's always been there and will forever be there. We have to be integrally within the United Kingdom and that's very important."

Any agreement signed off by the UK and EU will also have to pass through the House of Commons, where the Government does not have a majority.

But the Prime Minister was boosted by Steve Baker, chair of the ERG group of hard-line Tory Brexiteers, who said after a meeting in Downing Street that he was “optimistic that it is possible to reach a tolerable deal that I am able to vote for”.