The UK’s exit from the European Union may be well underway, but discussions for a smooth transition have hit more than a handful of rocky patches over the past few months. The Democratic Unionist Party, DUP, which helps to support the current British government majority, has reacted to suggestions that Prime Minister Theresa May will be treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the country. The DUP’s Arlene Foster has responded to such suggestions made in a Brexit letter leaked in recent days, suggesting that a key pledge by May had been broken, according to The Guardian.
One of the key issues in Brexit full stop is the concept of the Irish border – and in May’s recent letter, the Prime Minister appears to go against the idea of UK customs being broken up – as well as to suggest that the EU were continuing to rally for Northern Ireland to remain part of the single market should a ‘no deal’ situation be achieved. Foster has commented that the letter ‘raises alarm bells’ – and with May’s government reliant upon the DUP’s support, it is being suggested by some media outlets that the party and its allies may not offer support on such policies as they pass through parliament.
“The PM’s letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious union & for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole UK,” Foster tweeted. “From her letter, it appears the PM is wedded to the idea of a border down the Irish Sea with NI in the EU SM regulatory regime.”
Downing Street has commented directly on the leaked letter, and the controversy the passage the DUP raised. “The Prime Minister’s letter sets out her commitment, which she has been absolutely clear about on any number of occasions, to never accepting any circumstances in which the UK is divided into two customs territories. The government will not agree anything that brings about a hard border on the island of Ireland.”
With Northern Ireland remaining a contentious issue throughout Brexit calculations, Downing Street has also been careful to downplay any number of suggestions that an agreed deal on the divorce could be due any time soon. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, has suggested otherwise – that a breakthrough on the deal front could be due imminently.