Arlene Foster blasts Theresa May over EU plan to put border in the Irish Sea

Posted On: 
9th November 2018

Arlene Foster has hit out at Theresa May after the Prime Minister appeared to concede that any Brexit deal with the EU will include the option of putting a border down the Irish Sea.

Theresa May relies on Arlene Foster's DUP to give her a Commons majority.
PA Images

The DUP leader said Mrs May appeared "wedded to" the idea, despite previously saying that such an arrangement would be "unacceptable".

Ms Foster's comments are a huge blow to the Prime Minister, who relies on the DUP's 10 MPs to prop up her government and will rely on them to get any Brexit deal through Parliament.

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The row erupted after Mrs May sent her DUP counterpart a five-page letter on Tuesday updating her on the Brexit negotiations.

In the letter, which has been leaked to The Times, the Prime Minister conceded that the EU was still pushing for a "backstop to the backstop", which would effectively leave Northern Ireland in the customs union and single market if talks collapse as a way of avoiding the return of a hard Irish border.

Although Mrs May says she would never allow such a situation to "come into force", the DUP are alarmed that the plan could still form part of any legally binding agreement reached between the Government and Westminster. 

Ms Foster told The Times: “The Prime Minister’s letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious Union and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole of the UK.

"It appears the Prime Minister is wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea with Northern Ireland in the EU single market regulatory regime."

But a Downing Street spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister’s letter sets out her commitment, which she has been absolutely clear about on any number of occasions, to never accepting any circumstances in which the UK is divided into two customs territories.

"The Government will not agree anything that brings about a hard border on the island of Ireland."

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that European fishermen could be given access to British waters as the price of a temporary customs arrangement between the UK and the EU.

Any such deal could spark a backlash from Scottish Secretary David Mundell, who has told the Prime Minister he is willing to resign if the UK remains in the Common Fisheries Policy after Brexit.

Downing Street is eager to agree a deal in time for an emergency EU summit to take place at the end of the month, with Whitehall sources saying a special meeting of the Cabinet could take place on Monday to sign off an agreement.


Meanwhile, Mrs May will hold talks with French president Emmanuel Macron today as she travels to France and Belgium to mark the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

The pair are expected to discuss Brexit suring a working lunch.

Mrs May will lay a wreath at Belgium's St Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons, where she will visit the graves of John Parr, the first UK soldier to be killed in 1914, and the last, George Ellison.

She said: "That their graves lie opposite each other is a fitting and poignant symbol that brings home the eternal bond between them, and every member of the armed forces who gave their lives to protect what we hold so dear.

"We remember the heroes who lost their lives in the horror of the trenches. As the sun sets on 100 years of remembrance, we will never forget their sacrifice."