A Brexit deal was scuppered yesterday as the DUP flexed their political muscle.
Theresa May had agreed in principle to a deal with Jean-Claude Junker allowing for “regulatory alignment” of Northern Ireland to EU market rules. However, after a call with DUP leader Arlene Foster, May had to back down from the agreement.
The idea of Northern Ireland retaining some form of single market regulation to prevent Irish border controls was rejected by the DUP, who adamantly oppose any division between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The DUP holds a staunchly nationalist, pro-UK ideology and is currently the largest party in Northern Ireland. After May lost her overall majority in the 2017 general election the DUP entered a supply and confidence arrangement with the Conservatives, meaning that any Brexit deal has to be agreed to by the Northern Irish party.
Speaking to the press Arlene Foster stated, “We will not accept any kind of of regulatory divergence which separates us economically or politically from the rest of the UK.”
She went on to criticise Irish officials, saying “The Republic of Ireland government is trying to unilaterally change the Belfast agreement without our input and without our consent… Of course, we will not stand for that.”
Responding to the situation, May’s official spokesman said “The PM has been clear that the UK is leaving the European Union as a whole and the territorial and economic integrity of the United Kingdom will be protected.”
Floating plans for separate rules for a British region has not gone unnoticed by other British officials. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter “If one part of UK can retain regulatory alignment with EU and effectively stay in the single market (which is the right solution for Northern Ireland) there is surely no good practical reason why others can’t.” Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan also took notice, claiming “Huge ramifications for London if Theresa May has conceded… Londoners overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and a similar deal here could protect tens of thousands of jobs.”