Northern Ireland news

DUP reacts angrily as British cabinet backs Theresa May's Brexit deal

British prime minister Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London, confirming that cabinet has agreed the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement

THE DUP has reacted angrily to the British cabinet's agreed draft Brexit deal with the EU which would see Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK.

Theresa May emerged from Downing Street after a five-hour marathon cabinet meeting saying the deal was a "decisive" step in the progress of Brexit.

The 585-page document includes agreement on the contentious 'backstop' which would separate Northern Ireland from the UK.

This would come into effect if a UK-EU trade deal is not settled by the end of a transition period.

Both sides have resolved to ensure the backstop will not necessary by coming up with alternative arrangements.

Mrs May, who is understood to have had the support of only two thirds of the cabinet, now faces a battle to get the deal through the House of Commons.

The DUP joined the criticism of the deal with MP Sammy Wilson saying Mrs May had allowed a "punishment beating" to be administered by the EU.

Sammy Wilson warned that the DUP would vote against Theresa May's EU withdrawal plans. Picture by Michael McHugh/PA Wire

He said unionists had fought against "a terrorist campaign to break the UK" he warned EU leaders they "won't let the EU break Northern Ireland".

Earlier at a press conference the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said a solution to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland has been found.

Outlining the arrangements he said the north would stay in the same customs territory as the rest of the UK, but that the region would remain aligned to some EU regulations to avoid a hard border.

Mr Barnier also said that the planned 21-month transition period after the UK leaves the EU next March, could be extended "for a limited time period".

However, he said that only if at the end of this period – if there is no better solution – then would a backstop "kick in".

Taoiseach Leo Varadar said avoiding a hard border had been "one of the most difficult challenges" of the process.

He made clear the backstop would remain in place "unless and until" a better solution is agreed.

"I firmly hope that we can achieve a better solution and we will be working strenuously to that end," he said.

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