DUP steps up warning to May not to compromise on Border

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EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said Wednesday (10 October) that the withdrawal agreement between the EU and United Kingdom is "within reach" if London agrees to keep either Northern Ireland or the entire United Kingdom in the bloc's customs union before a separate deal on future relations is reached.

Labour demands that Britain retain "the exact same" perks it now has within the EU's customs union and single market - something May's so-called Chequers plan does not meet and which the EU rules out since London made a decision to leave both. High stakes at high noon for these Brexit negotiations.

But the DUP has expressed concern that May has "swallowed" an "EU con" and has been persuaded by arguments that checks on goods destined for Ireland in British ports and premises would not constitute a border in the Irish Sea.

The former PM also took a shot at the Tories' coalition partners, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of the Northern Ireland, who earlier in the month identified their "red line" when it comes to the Brexit deal. "This has never been offered to anyone else and will not be offered in the future", said a source.

The plan would also involve keeping Northern Ireland in the single market to help maintain frictionless trade across the border with the Republic while mainland Britain would be outwith the single market.

"It's a life jacket to us. Without an end date, we could be in the customs union forever".

"But, I do think the Government does need to listen very carefully".

While talks with Brussels have intensified since May emerged from her infighting Conservative party conference last week, there has been no breakthrough. Michael Russell will be there representing the Scottish Government and is expected to once again sound the alarm about the damage to Scotland's economy a hard or no-deal Brexit would do.

This, however, would raise the prospect of increased regulation checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Aodhán Connolly, the director of the NIRC, said: "The offer the European Union has made to Northern Ireland is uniquely beneficial".

Business leaders in Northern Ireland say the trade between the two islands is dominated by 88 large companies such as Guinness, but the impact of Brexit on the border will be felt by small businesses.

But at the same time, neither side wants to upset peace on the island of Ireland by winding down the open border between the British province there and European Union member state Ireland.

He added: "If they (the government) decide to cave in to the unreasonable and unnecessary demands which are being promoted by Brussels, then we will have to consider whether or not they have kept their side of the bargain".