Theresa May plunged into crisis as Tory MPs and DUP threaten to vote down Brexit deal
Theresa May's government has been plunged into crisis after Tory MPs and the DUP threatened to vote down the Brexit deal she has struck with the EU.
The Prime Minister has summoned her senior ministers to Downing Street this evening to persuade them to back the draft agreement struck by negotiators in Brussels.
She will then chair a special meeting of Cabinet at 2pm tomorrow, at which she hopes they will formally rubber-stamp the proposals.
It is understood that the draft document contains proposals for the whole of the UK to stay in a customs arrangement with the EU as a way of avoiding a hard Irish border while a long-term free trade deal is thrashed out.
However, special provisions are also thought to be included which would lead to additional customs and regulatory checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, which the DUP - who Mrs May relies on to prop up her government - have insisted they cannot support.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds described the proposals as "a trap" aimed at keeping Northern Ireland under the control of Brussels.
He said: "If the reports are as we are hearing, then we can't possible vote for that."
Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who quit the Cabinet over Brexit, told Sky News: "If the reports are right then this is just about as bad as it could possibly be and what you’ve got is not only the UK remaining in the customs union forever and a day so we can’t do free trade deals, we can’t take back control of our laws, we remain in a regulatory alignment with the EU - accepting EU rules but unable to shape them.
"But the kicker is that we haven’t even really managed to protect the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, because according to these proposals, if the reports are correct, there would have to be customs and regulatory checks down the Irish Sea as well.
"So effectively you would be in a position where the Government in Dublin would have more say in some matters on the government of Northern Ireland than London. It is not by any stretch of the imagination acceptable to anybody who believes in economic and political freedom of this country."
Asked what Cabinet ministers should do, Mr Johnson said: "I think they should have some guts and determination and man up and woman up and chuck it out - it is not the right way forward. There is no point in leaving the EU if you end up being run by the EU and not able to influence it."
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the Brexiteer European Research Group, told the BBC: "If what we've heard is true this fails to meet the Conservative Party's manifesto and it fails to meet many of the commitments that the Prime Minister makes. It would keep us in the customs union and de facto in the single market.
"This is the vassal state. It is a failure of the government's negotiating position. It is a failure to deliver on Brexit. And it is potentially dividing up the United Kingdom. It is very hard to see any reason why the Cabinet should support Northern Ireland being ruled from Dublin."
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also confirmed that his MPs will be told to vote against Mrs May's deal when it comes to Parliament.
"We will look at the details of what has been agreed when they are available," he said. "But from what we know of the shambolic handling of these negotiations, this is unlikely to be a good deal for the country.
"Labour has been clear from the beginning that we need a deal to support jobs and the economy - and that guarantees standards and protections. If this deal doesn’t meet our six tests and work for the whole country, then we will vote against it."