There is “no way” the Democratic Unionist Party will back Theresa May's Brexit deal, a leading figure has said. Sammy Wilson told the BBC he was “more alarmed” than ever about what the deal would mean for Northern Ireland.
The DUP, which props up Theresa May's government, has held talks with the PM in recent days as she tries to persuade MPs to back the deal later this month.
The PM is seeking further legal assurances from the EU but it has said negotiations will not be re-opened. The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.
MPs will decide whether to accept or reject the withdrawal terms negotiated by Mrs. May, as well as the framework of future relations, in a vote expected on 15 January.
The vote was due to be held in December but Mrs May postponed it after it became clear she would be heavily defeated.
In the three weeks since then, she has been appealing to EU leaders to do more to allay MPs' concerns over parts of the agreement, particularly the proposed Irish backstop.
This arrangement would see the UK remain closely aligned to EU rules if the two sides' future relationship is not settled by the end of 2020, when the proposed transition period will end, or if another way is not found of preventing physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Mrs May, who had a friendly phone call with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Friday, insists it is a contingency plan that all sides agree should not be needed.
But the DUP are adamantly opposed, saying it will create new barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and could end up as the default template for future relations.
Mr Wilson, the DUP's Brexit spokesman, told BBC Radio 4's Today program that little had changed since mid-December and his party believed the backstop was a con trick that was being imposed on the UK.
Asked if there was any way the party could support the PM's deal, he replied no there is not.
It is not just because of the regulations which Northern Ireland would be subject to with the backstop, but also the fact we would have to treat the rest of the UK as a third country and we would not participate in any trade deals which the UK may enter into the future.
On Thursday, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the border issue was the only red line his country has had in the Brexit negotiations and that would not change.
While he and other EU leaders were prepared to offer assurances and clarifications to help Mrs. May get the agreement through Parliament, he said it has to be a proposal that we can accept.
It can't be a proposal that contradicts what is already in the withdrawal agreement, he said. It can't be something that renders the backstop inoperable, for example.
The DUP have said talk of the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland is nonsense propaganda, since neither London nor Dublin wants it or is willing to construct the infrastructure.
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