Priti Patel says differences between Northern Ireland and UK in Brexit deal 'unacceptable'
Priti Patel has said it would be “unacceptable” for Northern Ireland to be treated any differently than the UK in a new Brexit deal.
The Home Secretary said the Commons had already voted down the backstop arrangement on that basis as she pressed the case for the territory to leave the EU customs union along with the rest of the UK.
The comments come as Boris Johnson continues last-ditch talks with European leaders ahead of a crunch EU summit this week.
Brussels slapped down Mr Johnson’s initial proposal for Northern Ireland to be within the UK customs union and for some checks to take place away from the Irish border, with consent and veto powers given to the Stormont Assembly.
Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, whether she would be happy for Northern Ireland to be closer to the EU customs union than the rest of Britain, Ms Patel said: “We should not have that difference at all.
“But the reality is I come back to where we are in the negotiations...there is no point speculating on what could be acceptable, what isn’t acceptable.”
The Brexiteer added: “The Withdrawal Agreement was rejected in Parliament three times on the basis of the backstop and on the basis that Northern Ireland obviously would be treated differently.
“That is a situation that is unacceptable.
“Northern Ireland we have to ensure will leave the customs union along with the rest of the UK that is effectively the position that we have made clear.”
Mr Johnson’s Cabinet will be briefed on Sunday afternoon over progress being made on the plan, after “very promising” talks with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar paved the way for intensified negotiations with the EU.
Member states will also receive an update on the developments on Sunday evening at 5pm.
The current proposals would see Northern Ireland remain legally in Britain’s customs union, but with some of the benefits of remaining in the EU customs union.
But the DUP’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said the solution “cannot work”, while Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg urged fellow Eurosceptics that “compromise will inevitably be needed”.
Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday the leading Brexiteer however admitted he did not know whether the Brexit plan will have similarities to Theresa May’s deal, and that he may have to “eat his words”.
“I don’t know if I’m right or wrong we’ll have to find out in a day or two whether I will have to eat my words or not,” he said.
“It is ultimately a question of trust about the direction in which we are going…that I trust Boris Johnson to ensure that the relationship the UK has with the European Union is one where we are not a vassal state.
“And that is the point that we are leading towards in all these discussions and I’m very keen that we succeed in getting to."