Talk to DUP over Brexit threat, Coveney is urged

Mike Gapes rejected suggestions that up to 30 Labour MPs planned to back the Tory government

British negotiators in Brussels are thought to be preparing to sign up to a draft of the backstop for Northern Ireland - aimed at preventing a hard border - that could see the whole of the United Kingdom effectively inside the customs union.

The DUP has stepped up warnings to Theresa May not to compromise over the Northern Ireland border in her efforts to secure a Brexit deal.

The party gathered in Mid-Ulster on Friday to brief members on the Brexit process, with leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds among those present.

The Northern Irish party that British Prime Minister Theresa May's government relies on for support says it will consider backing a vote of no-confidence if May agrees to European Union checks on goods entering the region post-Brexit.

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Speaking to Northern Ireland journalists at her Downing Street office, May said on Thursday that talks on the Irish backstop were likely to continue until November.

It will follow another Whitehall meeting of the Joint Ministerial Committee, which will be attended by Mr Lidington and his colleagues Dominic Raab, the Brexit Secretary, and David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary.

On Tuesday, former Brexit minister Steve Baker said up to 80 Tory MPs are considering voting against the Prime Minister's "half-in-half-out Chequers [Brexit] deal".

The DUP is propping up Mrs May's minority government and on Wednesday they threatened to vote down the budget and move to topple the government if the Prime Minister breaches their Brexit "red lines".

He added: "The serious business is how we get through these current negotiations, live up to our promises to be a unionist party, and protect the union".

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The main sticking point in Brexit talks is agreeing on a legally binding "backstop" arrangement to keep open the border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an European Union member state, whatever the outcome of future trade talks.

Asked about the threat, May said: "The DUP will do what the DUP will do".

Downing Street has always been clear that it does not wish or expect the backstop option to be implemented, as it insists it will be possible to agree a wider trade deal guaranteeing an open border in Ireland by the end of the transition period in December 2020.

Trade secretary Liam Fox told friends that her proposal "would make life very hard for me", according to a Mail report, because it would limit the UK's ability to strike new free trade deals outside the EU.

Meanwhile Tony Blair suggested Labour should vote down whatever deal Mrs May brings back to Parliament in the hope of forcing a second referendum.

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