UK Govt brushes off Brexit threat by N. Irish allies

EU officials warned to prepare for no-deal Brexit

European Union Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Wednesday an agreement with Britain could be "within reach" next week, calling for decisive progress in the talks in time for a summit of all 28 EU leaders.

At least three eurosceptic Cabinet ministers are said to be considering quitting over the latest concession, which appears to contradict Mrs May's promise earlier this year that the backstop would expire "at the very latest by the end of December 2021".

The British government and leading politicians in Northern Ireland insist they will not agree to a withdrawal treaty that foresees the possibility of Northern Ireland being kept inside the EU's economic area while the British mainland is not.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has warned Theresa May she can not "in good conscience" recommend a Brexit deal which keeps Northern Ireland in the customs union.

"The prime minister is a unionist".

In addition, Northern Ireland would remain under large parts of single market regulations, requiring enhanced checks on products arriving from Britain, particularly agricultural goods.

But he made clear that the European Union envisages a deal involving new customs and regulatory checks on goods travelling from Britain to Northern Ireland, including health and sanitary inspections for 100% of animals and animal products arriving in ports like Larne and Belfast from the rest of the UK. "Many of her cabinet colleagues have assured me of their unionism", she said. Indeed, Northern Ireland's access to any new United Kingdom trade deals would also be regulated by Brussels.

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London hopes to resolve the issue with a future trade deal, but agrees there should be a "backstop" arrangement to avoid physical frontier checks until that deal is done.

He said: "The UK wants to leave, and will leave, the single market and the customs union".

The DUP has threatened to vote against the government's budget if it goes ahead with the plan.

May's Conservative party has relied on the DUP's 10 MPs to pass legislation since losing its majority in the House of Commons in the June 2017 election.

British and European Union negotiators are understood to have agreed in principle to an all-UK backstop plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland that would remove the final major obstacle blocking a withdrawal agreement.

On Wednesday DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson warned the Prime Minister that his party would pull support and collapse her government if Northern Ireland was left "languishing in the stifling embrace of the EU" after Brexit.

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