Northern Ireland news

DUP denies shift on regulatory checks red lines

Arlene Foster said UK must leave the EU 'as one nation'. Picture by Aaron Chown/PA Wire

THE DUP has denied claims that it may abandon its 'border in the Irish Sea' red line in a bid to ensure the British government gets a deal with Brussels.

According to a front page report in the Times yesterday, Arlene Foster's party is willing to accept EU rules which would apply only to Northern Ireland as an alternative to the controversial backstop.

The newspaper cited unidentified sources saying the DUP would drop its objections to regulatory checks in the Irish Sea.

Agreeing to such checks would mark a major climbdown for the DUP, which has consistently argued against any divergence between Northern Ireland and Britain.

But DUP leader Arlene Foster was quick to reject the newspaper's claims and insisted that the UK must leave the European Union "as one nation".

Her colleague Sammy Wilson was equally dismissive.

"We are still totally opposed to any form of a Northern Ireland-only backstop and a border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain which is our main market and we're certainly not going to allow ourselves to be put in a situation where the part of the United Kingdom with which we belong would have to be regarded as a third country when it comes to trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain," he told Sky News yesterday.

The East Antrim MP said the party was open to north-south measures which did not disrupt trade with Britain but could not allow the EU to be given “carte blanche”.

The Times' article coincided with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson telling The Irish News that the DUP would consider "structural arrangements that allow Northern Ireland to recognise EU standards on food and agri goods".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said yesterday that the gap between the EU and the British government in reaching a deal was "very wide".

He said the Dublin government had always been willing to explore alternative arrangements but added "what they are seeing falls very far short".

His deputy Simon Coveney said the EU had issues with a future Stormont executive being able to have a say in aspects of the backstop.

The tánaiste any alternative arrangements to replace the backstop and the withdrawal agreement would be "rigrorously tested."

"It's got to be negotiated in Brussels between the team for the UK and Michel Barnier's task force – I think that's where these ideas get tested," he said.

"I think there is certainly a concern at an EU level that a devolved institution in Northern Ireland could have a veto over how the single market operates or a border on the single market operates, so it's not as straightforward as some people are suggesting."

Mr Coveney said there are no detailed proposals being but forward by the British government and that it was a source of frustration in Europe.

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