THE prime minister was yesterday warned not to betray his DUP allies so he can secure a new Brexit deal.
Boris Johnson met DUP leader Arlene Foster and nervous unionist MPs in Downing Street but reassured them that, despite rumours to the contrary, he wouldn’t be forced into accepting a Northern Ireland-only backstop.
Mr Johnson has previously suggested the EU could accept a deal if food laws in the province stay aligned with southern Ireland rather than Britain.
Phil Hogan, the EU’s new trade commissioner and former Irish finance minister, had backed that idea but warned the EU would not accept a ‘partial backstop’ applying to just food. ‘It would have to include all goods in terms of any agreement,’ he told the Irish Times.
‘This is the first time a British prime minister [has said] they are prepared to accept some level of divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. I remain hopeful the penny is finally dropping with the UK.’
However, the DUP said Mr Johnson would ‘break up the UK’ if he put a border down the Irish Sea.
But following yesterday’s talks at No.10, Mrs Foster revealed that Mr Johnson had ruled out such a move, saying he had rejected it in a letter to European Council president Donald Tusk on August 19.
Her statement added: ‘It is undemocratic and unconstitutional and would place a tariff border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. That would be unacceptable.’
The talks came after police in Northern Ireland said dissident republicans were making a ‘concerted effort’ to kill their officers following Monday’s petrol bomb attack in Londonderry.
Meanwhile, Brexiteer Labour MPs hinted yesterday they could support a revised deal, leaving the prime minister less dependent on the DUP.
Downing Street also denied reports that Mr Johnson’s controversial special adviser Dominic Cummings told aides ‘I don’t care if Northern Ireland falls in the f***ing sea’. A spokesman also insisted that another way would be found to break the Brexit deadlock, not a ‘Northern Ireland-only backstop’.