Northern Irish MPs have thrown cold water on the British government’s proposal for overcoming the Irish border issue threatening to hold up Brexit talks. According to a report in The Times newspaper the Brexit negotiators are close to a breakthrough on the question of how to avoid the re-emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland. The proposal involves devolving powers to the Belfast executive that would allow it to converge its regulations with those of the Republic of Ireland and the EU in areas such as energy and agriculture, thereby avoiding the need for customs checks when these products or services are pass between the two jurisdictions.
The Times reports that negotiators in Dublin believe that thanks to this “movement” on the issue there is growing confidence that a deal can be reached before the EU summit in mid-December.
However, speaking to the BBC, Sammy Wilson, an MP with the DUP, the Northern Irish Unionist party supporting Theresa May’s government, warned the prime minister that any deal which treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK will be rejected by the DUP. In response to the proposals reported in the Times Mr Wilson said that the UK government will “have to recognise that if this is about treating Northern Ireland differently, or leaving us half in the EU, dragging along behind regulations which change in Dublin, it’s not on.”
The DUP signed a deal with the Conservative party after the elections in June agreeing to vote in accordance with the government in return for a £1 billion package of government spending in Northern Ireland.
Mr Wilson said that “if there is any hint that in order to placate Dublin and the EU, they’re prepared to have Northern Ireland treated differently than the rest of the UK, then they can’t rely on our vote.” He said his party will be seeking clarification from the government on the proposals revealed in the report.