Brexit: DUP rejects support for Johnson’s Brexit deal

LONDON 

Northern Ireland’s biggest party and de facto partner of U.K.’s Conservative Party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), said on Thursday it would not support a proposed Brexit deal by Boris Johnson.

In a statement, party leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds said they could not yet back Johnson’s Brexit plans.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT [value-added tax],” they said.

“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom,” they added.

The statement came hours before Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to travel to Brussels for a European Council summit and further talks with EU leaders on a recent deal he recently proposed.

Johnson’s deal proposes Northern Ireland remain aligned with EU rules and tariffs after Oct. 31, until the issue of the border on the island of Ireland is resolved.

The deal, if accepted and approved by all sides, will put a commercial border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. on the Irish Sea — a move categorically rejected by the DUP in past negotiations.

Johnson has been in crunch talks with the EU team to be able to get a deal before Saturday Oct. 19 — a deadline introduced by the House of Commons to reach a deal with the bloc.

The DUP statement came as a huge blow to Johnson’s plans to secure a deal with the EU and to seek approval from the House of Commons in a rare sitting planned for Saturday.

Johnson has met Foster and Dodds three times this week as he tried to convince them for their support to prevent a delay to Brexit and leave the union on Oct. 31.

The DUP’s support is crucial for Johnson in a meaningful vote to be held on any deal he might bring back to the parliament due to a “confidence and supply” deal between the Conservatives and DUP. The deal was reached with the Northern Irish unionists after the Tories lost the parliamentary majority in a 2017 snap election.

Johnson is still expected to travel to Brussels today for the EU summit.

The U.K. is set to leave the bloc on Oct 31 but the parliament forced a mandate on Johnson to request an extension from the EU until a deal or a no-deal exit can not be approved by the lawmakers by the end of Saturday Oct. 19.

Johnson has repeatedly said the U.K. would leave the EU on Oct. 31.
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