DUP accuses May of breaking Brexit pledge over Irish Sea border

Arlene Foster's 'alarm bells' as DUP warns Tories of Brexit deal 'consequences'

Brexit is expected to dominate the agenda of the British Irish Council, which also involves the first ministers of Scotland and Wales, Nicola Sturgeon and Carwyn Jones.

May sent a five-page letter on Tuesday to the leaders of Northern Ireland's small Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that supports her government.

However, in a post on Twitter, Ms Foster wrote: "The PM's letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious union and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole UK".

This would be a huge blow for the PM's hopes of reaching a deal with Brussels by the end of the month.

However, in the leaked letter, it is revealed Mrs May admitted to the DUP that the European Union is still proposing a Northern Ireland-only backstop arrangement alongside a UK-wide solution.

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Mr Wilson also said: "In that letter it makes it quite clear the government has accepted there will be a Northern Ireland-only backstop, that that backstop will require specific alignment for regulations, a solution which does that, and the scope of that will be carefully subscribed".

A leaked letter from the Prime Minister in reply to an earlier message from Mrs Foster and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, set out Mrs May's approach.

The prime minister has been pushing to agree a UK-wide backstop arrangement, which would see the whole United Kingdom remain in an effective customs union with the EU, after rejecting Brussels' proposal of a Northern Ireland-only solution.

Brexit has highlighted "real weaknesses" in the UK's devolution settlement, Nicola Sturgeon said, as she again urged Tory leaders to consider keeping the whole United Kingdom in the single market. "A successful outcome is not guaranteed but I think it is possible in the next couple of weeks", Mr Varadkar said.

He said the most important objective is to give everyone in Ireland, North and South "the assurance that a hard border will not develop... no matter what else may happen in the years ahead".

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"We are still in negotiations, and on that basis we don't know when and if this will conclude", a spokesman said, adding that a much-rumoured Cabinet meeting to allow ministers to sign off the deal had not been scheduled.

In a letter to the DUP sent this week, May said the EU was insisting that a backstop which keeps Northern Ireland wedded to the single market and customs union is included in the deal now being negotiated in Brussels.

"The only thing I would say is that it is very important that we listen to the voice of Northern Ireland in all of this".

But the EU has reportedly dismissed this plan, dubbed the "Cox compromise", insisting any arbitration must come from the European Court of Justice.

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The Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has today warned the United Kingdom that is can not alone decide when the Irish backstop ends. A deal on the Irish border to break the Brexit deadlock is not close, the EU's chief negotiator has said.

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