Brexit Secretary: Any extension to customs union membership must be temporary

Following her meeting with the EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels yesterday, DUP leader Arlene Foster said that the result of the Brexit referendum “must be respected as a whole across the nations” of the UK, while the European Commission had to respect the “sensitivities surrounding Northern Ireland.” She confirmed that her party had not seen the text of a revised backstop proposal from the UK Government.

Following reports that the DUP had softened its opposition to checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Foster said “There cannot be any customs or regulatory barriers between ourselves and the rest of the United Kingdom, both ways.” She added, “It is not just a case of regulations between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, it is also between Great Britain and Northern Ireland…The Prime Minister understands our position, and I expect her to respect that position.” Foster refused to rule out the possibility of DUP MPs voting against a Brexit deal which violated her party’s red lines, but said that the party was working in the “national interest”.

Meanwhile, Michelle O’Neill, the leader of Sinn Fein in Northern Ireland, said that “the ‘backstop’ as already agreed must be maintained and is the absolute bottom line for Sinn Féin, SDLP [Social Democratic and Labour Party], Alliance and Green party as we enter the endgame of the Brexit negotiations.”

Elsewhere, Ireland’s Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney said, “the [Brexit] talks process has intensified this week on trying to find a way forward on the [Northern Irish] backstop but I suspect November will probably be needed as well as October to get agreement on that but we’ll know an awful lot more next Monday and Tuesday.”

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