Tory-DUP war of words over Brexit intensifies

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas updated reporters on Mr Barnier's comments

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, noting how the PM was also a Unionist, said: "What is important for us is to say to her very clearly that any impediment on the two-way access in the United Kingdom single market would not be good for the Union or the economy of Northern Ireland". Penny Mordaunt, the global development secretary, and Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, and Andrea Leadsom have the most significant concerns over the plans, although they did not attend last night's meeting.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the other big issue for the prime minister, who relies on the Northern Irish party's votes to give her a notional majority in parliament.

The MP for South Cambridgeshire tweeted: "I really don't wish to be rude to Sammy (genuinely), but it does beg the question, why the heck did we pay £1bn for this!"

Turnstile He said: "The DUP's red lines are actually Theresa May's red lines".

Downing Street's position is that it "expects" this arrangement remaining in place no later than the end of December 2021. They should never have agreed to the backstop, even in its amended form.

Media captionHelen Grant on the DUP: "I think they are bluffing". The EU-27 ambassadors will get an update on Friday evening. They are now running around like headless chickens at the last minute trying to prevent themselves being sold down the river.

"The DUP have overestimated their influence and misjudged the situation".

To compound the British PM's troubles, the ruling party's Northern Irish allies - Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) - are threatening to pull out their support and effectively bring down the Tory government if May gave in to the European Union demands over the Irish border issue ahead of a crucial summit in Brussels next week.

Referring to the confidence-and-supply arrangement, she added that in the circumstances of a bad Brexit deal, there would be "no confidence".

Following three days of talks with key figures in Brussels, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the United Kingdom prime minister could not in "good conscience" accept the proposals now on the table from the EU.

Barnier said Brexit would trigger the need for customs, Value-Added Tax and compliance checks with EU standards between Ireland and Northern Ireland in the event that a planned "backstop" were triggered because a future EU-UK trade deal was not sufficient in itself to ensure the land frontier was not a "hard border".

Mrs May was reported to have played down the prospects of a breakthrough at next week's EU summit in Brussels, billed as the "moment of truth" by European Council President Donald Tusk.

It comes as former prime minister Tony Blair also made a fresh Brexit intervention, with a plea to Labour MPs to "hold firm" against withdrawal.

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major, meanwhile, has said he has "great sympathy" for Mrs May, telling the BBC's Political Thinking podcast that "the way she's being treated by some of her colleagues is absolutely outrageous".

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