DUP join with former Brexit ministers to pitch alternative deal

Arlene Foster spoke at the launch of 'A Better Deal' proposing an alternative to the EU withdrawal agreement

ARLENE Foster joined forces with two of Theresa May's former Brexit secretaries yesterday to launch an alternative plan to the government's EU withdrawal agreement.

David Davis and Dominic Raab were said to be last-minute additions to the event and sat at the top table alongside the DUP leader.

Mr Davis said afterwards: "It was an absolute pleasure to catch up with DUP leader Arlene Foster.

"We shared a platform for the release of 'A Better Deal' - a plan for an improved withdrawal agreement. It's vital that we push for a real alternative to the government's proposal".

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The document, drawn up by a former adviser to Liam Fox, Shanker Singham, along with customs expert Hans Maessen and lawyer Robert MacLean, retains much of the current Brexit deal but includes other proposals.

They include:

:: No single customs territory between the UK and the EU, allowing Britain to regain control over tariffs and regulations and negotiate trade agreements with other countries.

:: A 10-year, extendable backstop featuring advanced customs facilitation measures to keep the Irish border open with a commitment by all parties not to place infrastructure there.

:: Mutual recognition of regulations, with measures to ensure that animal health and disease control zone on the island of Ireland can be maintained.

:: The removal of language on World Trade Organisation collaboration, ensuring that the UK can operate independently in the WTO.

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Many of the options put forward have already been dismissed by the 27 EU member states at the early stages of negotiations with the UK government.

In a packed day of meetings, the DUP leader and her deputy Nigel Dodds also met with Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss the Brexit crisis.

Mrs Foster said she warned Mrs May that her border backstop proposal was "dangerous" to the economy and union.

"We emphasised that tinkering around the edges would not work," the DUP leader said after the Westminster meeting.

"We were not seeking assurances or promises. We wanted fundamental legal text changes."

Mrs Foster said Mrs May was well aware of her position

"We have been consistent, which is why it is so frustrating that our warnings about the backstop have not been heeded," she said.

"Unionism in Northern Ireland and across the House of Commons has rightly stood against this withdrawal agreement. It should be utterly unacceptable to any unionist.

"For Northern Ireland traders to be expected to treat GB as a third country is ridiculous and was never going to receive support in Parliament."

However, Sinn Féin's vice president Michelle O'Neill yesterday insisted the backstop remains the "only show in town" and said it must not fall victim to Tory infighting.

The party called on the Irish government to "remain firm" despite the "debacle" at Westminster.

"It is about making sure the backstop is the only show in town, it is the bottom line, it is the insurance policy," she said.

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