Mrs Foster said she had still not seen the draft divorce deal but said she was planning to quiz the PM later this evening. Mrs May’s minority Government is reliant on votes from the DUP to pass major legislation, but the Northern Irish party has threatened to vote against any Brexit deal which threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom. Speaking in the central lobby of the Palace of Westminster, Arlene Foster said she expected to be shown a copy of the terms agreed with Brussels tonight.
She said: “We’ve a lot of questions to ask and I’m looking forward to getting some clarity in relation to those matters.”
But the DUP leader said there would be “consequences” for Mrs May if she put forward a deal which treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK – a red line the party has reiterated throughout the Brexit talks.
Mrs Foster said: “If she decides to go against that, if she decides to go against herself – because on many, many occasions she stood up in this very place and said she will not break up the United Kingdom, there will be no difference between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – if she decides to go against all that, then there will be consequences.
“Of course there will be consequences. We could not as Unionists support a deal that broke up the United Kingdom.”
Theresa May’s Cabinet is meeting at Number 10 as the PM attempts to secure backing for her divisive Brexit plan.
The talks were scheduled to finish at 5pm but this has since been pushed back to at least 6pm.
Downing Street confirmed yesterday that a breakthrough had been made in the divorce talks after more than two years of intense negotiations.
But as details of the draft agreement began to emerge, MPs on both sides of the Brexit debate condemned the terms – particularly those surrounding the Irish border ‘backstop’.
The backstop is a contingency plan which will kick in to avoid a ‘hard border’ – involving customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic – if a future UK/EU trade deal fails to provide an alternative solution.
The arrangement would see the entire UK remain in the EU’s customs union which would avoid the need for border checks and provide more time to work out a permanent fix.
But there are major concerns over the exact wording of the deal, with Brexiteers warning the terms would cede control to Brussels.
They are also worried the backstop could effectively trap the UK inside the EU’s customs union indefinitely.
The DUP has expressed similar concerns, with Mrs Foster demanding clarity on exactly what will happen to Northern Ireland if the backstop kicks in.