Northern Ireland

Brexit: DUP's opinion 'quite important,' says David Davis

David Davis
Image caption Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said a lot of Tory MPs would "take their line" from the DUP

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has said many Conservative MPs consider the opinion of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) on a new Brexit agreement as "quite important".

The DUP held a 90-minute meeting with the PM on Tuesday night but said "gaps remain" before it will back a deal.

A party delegation returned to Downing Street again on Wednesday morning for a third day of talks.

Mr Davis said a lot of Tory MPs would "take their line" from the DUP.

If the DUP say the deal is "intolerable" then that opinion is "quite important", he said.

However, in the past some Tory MPs have said they would back the DUP - but did not when it came to a meaningful vote.

Arlene Foster had told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme that the issue of a customs divide between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK was a "blood-red line".

Mr Davis said: "Let's see when she sees the detail of the deal whether she thinks this is blood-red line or it's an acceptable compromise."

On Tuesday, Mrs Foster said the DUP would "stick with our principles" that Northern Ireland "must remain" in the United Kingdom's customs union.

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Media captionBrexit: Sammy Wilson says consent 'must respect Good Friday Agreement'

The DUP has consistently opposed any new customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, while the EU and the British government have both said there cannot be a hard border within the island of Ireland.

Speaking at Westminster on Wednesday, DUP MP Sammy Wilson said any customs deal that affects Northern Ireland has to have the consent of the Assembly and that must be done on a cross-community vote.

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He made the comments as he questioned the Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay during a House of Commons committee hearing.

The DUP MP said UK and EU negotiators "need to respect the agreement" .

Stephen Barclay said the government had a "commitment to find solutions which were compatible to the Good Friday Agreement".

Analysis: DUP has few choices left

By Jayne McCormack, BBC News NI Political Reporter

Political corners are uncomfortable places.

The DUP has so far refused to say "yea" or "nay" to what the UK and EU are closing in on: it will want to weigh up the risks of each option before coming to a final decision.

Other MPs say they are waiting for the DUP's verdict before making their own call.

But remember, we have been here before.

When the DUP refused for a third time to back Theresa May's withdrawal deal, some Brexiteer Tories opted to back the deal anyway, concerned it could be their last chance to get Brexit done.

The DUP doesn't trust Boris Johnson, in fact the party leader Arlene Foster said she trusted no-one but herself in negotiations.

The party, however, has few choices left and time is short.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to update the cabinet on the progress of the negotiations, which continued into the early hours.

On Tuesday, EU negotiator Michel Barnier said there was a "narrow path" to a Brexit deal this week but the two sides would have to agree the details by the end of the day.

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Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar said talks were "moving in the right direction" but gaps between the sides remained.

The UK is due to leave the EU at 23:00 GMT on 31 October.

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