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Brexit plan aims to increase pressure on Theresa May

Brexiteers have so far been dismissive of concerns about the Irish border while failing to come up with their own workable solution to an intractable problem.

In answer to their detractors, the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative backbenchers, led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, have now published a set of proposals they insist will allow the UK to leave the EU's single market and customs union without the need for a hard border.

In one sense, it is progress of sorts that at least they have put some detail into the public domain so a proper debate can take place about this major hurdle in the Brexit negotiations.

But we also have to consider the backdrop to this plan, which has been pulled together and presented by hardline Brexiteers who are strongly opposed to Theresa May's Chequers blueprint, which she is insisting is the only way forward.

Indeed, so divided is the Tory party on this issue that a meeting of the ERG on Tuesday is said to have included discussions on a possible leadership challenge.

Mrs May's government, as we know, hangs by the slenderest of threads, propped up by the DUP MPs.

Yet the DUP now appears to be backing a proposal that attempts to undermine the prime minister's position.

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the ERG paper was 'positive and timely' - not quite the firm statement of support that Mrs May might have been hoping for.

In terms of the ERG plan, it tends to rely heavily on technological solutions but spokesman Owen Paterson, when pressed on the BBC, was unable to provide a single example of where such an approach is working in Europe.

It is abundantly clear many Tory MPs are unhappy with the Chequers plan and there is no guarantee it will be accepted by the EU.

But time is getting short and with Theresa May facing enormous internal opposition, the next few months are likely to be anything but plain sailing.

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