The phone call that never was

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

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Arlene Foster left her deputy to meet with the government today over plans for Northern Ireland

Theresa May and Arlene Foster have not had the promised phone call today.

I'm hearing, in fact, that a conversation was never really on the cards. Instead, it was announced as part of the niceties of trying to treat Sinn Fein and the DUP on the same basis, when a call was taking place with them.

The precise choreography matters much less, however, than the question of whether anything is being achieved. Sources tonight don't sound particularly optimistic.

There is only a wafer of a chance now that Arlene Foster will make the journey to London on Wednesday, and smaller prospects still of the prime minister heading back to Brussels within 24 hours with anything new to say.


A DUP source says the draft text they eventually saw on Monday morning requires "radical surgery", rather than just the odd tweak here and there.

The problem, they claim, is with the premise of the whole thing, that is written on the basis of Northern Ireland and the EU having a different relationship to the rest of the UK. For them, on the basis of what they believe they have seen, it is just unpalatable.

There are concerns too in Cabinet about the implications of the promises on 'alignment'.

Without going into the gory details - I'll save that fun for another day - as Iain Duncan Smith suggested to us earlier, the implications of permanently closer ties to the EU, whether it is Northern Ireland or the whole UK, might not be palatable to plenty of MPs in the Tory party.

At the very least the ambiguity is not acceptable to that powerful contingent.

And Michael Gove and Boris Johnson both have their fair share of worries about it too.

A new deal with the DUP taking several days may prove the least of Number 10's problems.