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1ST LEAD May to meet cabinet as DUP presses for change to Brexit plan By Bill Smith, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
London (dpa) - British Prime Minister Theresa May was set to discuss Brexit with her cabinet late Thursday, as Northern Ireland‘s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) raised the pressure on her to change her plan.

May was expected to rally her ministers behind her Brexit proposals ahead of a crucial summit of EU leaders next week.

The DUP is unhappy that May appears close to accepting the EU‘s "backstop" plan for the Irish border, which could involve checks on some goods transported to Northern Ireland from Britain.

The 10 DUP lawmakers in the British parliament, who support May‘s minority Conservative government on key issues, abstained in a non-crucial vote late Wednesday, in a symbolic warning to May.

"We will not be bullied into propping up a soft-touch government which gives in to the EU‘s demands," Sammy Wilson, one of the more outspoken DUP lawmakers, wrote in Thursday‘s Telegraph newspaper.

Eurosceptic Conservative Iain Duncan Smith, a former party chairman, told the BBC on Thursday that May should "listen very carefully," amid speculation that the DUP lawmakers could vote against her budget later this month.

May has proposed a compromise for a temporary, last-resort "backstop" to maintain free movement of goods and people across the Irish border once Britain leaves the EU in March.

If no other solution can be found, the backstop would apply following a 21-month transitional period to keep an open border between the Republic of Ireland, which will remain an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which will leave the bloc with the rest of the United Kingdom.

Wilson said EU officials‘ demands for special arrangements for Northern Ireland were based on "an outrageous confidence trick on the UK government" by making the Irish border "an insurmountable problem" to future trade between Britain and the EU.

"We are alarmed that the government is even prepared to discuss these demands with the EU and don‘t believe that there are any amendments which could make them more palatable," he wrote in a separate article for Northern Ireland‘s News Letter.

Ivan Rogers, Britain‘s former ambassador to the EU, accused May‘s government of "extraordinary - indeed I would say culpable - naivety" in handling Brexit since the country voted to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum.

Britain‘s argument that a future trade deal with the EU must be agreed before Brexit has proved to be "total fantasy," Rogers said in a speech at Cambridge University on Wednesday.

He said the chance was "precisely zero" that EU leaders could agree to either May‘s "Chequers" plan - involving a common rulebook with the EU on the trade of goods - or Conservative eurosceptics‘ alternative proposals for an expanded Canada-style trade deal.

Canada‘s deal with the EU, known as CETA, removes nearly all tariffs on industrial, agricultural and fishery trade but does not oblige Canada to contribute to the EU budget.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis, who resigned in July to oppose the Chequers plan, published an open letter on Tuesday urging the 315 Conservative lawmakers to push for a Canada-style deal, arguing that May‘s proposals offer "none of the benefits of Brexit."


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