Brexit deal under threat as DUP say that cannot support proposals 'as things stand'

·Freelance Writer
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street to attend Parliament in London, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. The U.K. offered the European Union a proposed last-minute Brexit deal on Wednesday that it said represents a realistic compromise for both sides, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the bloc to hold "rapid negotiations towards a solution" after years of wrangling. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Boris Johnson's hopes for a Brexit deal have been dealt a major blow (AP)

Boris Johnson’s hopes for a last-minute Brexit deal are fading as the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) say they cannot support it in its current form.

The Prime Minister had hoped that his confidence and supply partners would get on board with his proposals before the crucial EU summit but the DUP have this morning dealt a major blow.

In a statement from DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds, the party said: "We have been involved in ongoing discussions with the Government.

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"As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.

"We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”

Mr Johnson has been in close and continued contact with the pair as he tries to shore up their support ahead of Saturday's key deadline to prevent a delay to Brexit.

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It is also thought that support from ardent Tory Brexiteers is reliant on the DUP getting on board with the proposals.

The DUP is digging in over the prospect of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, as well as the issues of consent regarding the suspended Stormont Assembly.

Another major issue in the PM's proposals are whether EU VAT rates would apply in Northern Ireland.

DUP Deputy leader Nigel Dodds and leader Arlene Foster speak to media at Hillsborough Castle after meeting NI Secretary Julian Smith.
DUP Deputy leader Nigel Dodds and leader Arlene Foster say they cannot yet support Brexit proposals (PA)

Hopes fading

Talks between the UK and the EU are set to go down to the wire before the two-day summit.

Mr Johnson needs to get a deal approved before the weekend if he is to avoid a major clash over asking for an extension to the current October 31 deadline.

The Benn Act pushed through Parliament by no-deal opponents states that he must seek a delay if MPs do not give their backing to an agreement on Saturday, when an extraordinary Commons showdown is anticipated.

With fears that there is now insufficient time for a legal text to be hammered out in time, a compromise could see EU leaders back a political agreement and a second summit scheduled.

Britain's Conservative Party politicians, from left, Steve Baker, Iain Duncan Smith, Mark Francois, and Bill Cash, walk up Downing Street for a meeting, in London, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019.  Talks between the EU and Britain on the country's departure from the bloc are continuing after running through the night but that obstacles remain. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Members of the influential ERG signalled they could give their backing to Mr Johnson's Brexit proposals (AP)

ERG backing

The DUP has had three meetings with the PM in as many days.

The party is seen as having significant influence over the stance of hardline Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) and hence are crucial in getting any deal approved by MPs.

But, ahead of the DUP's damaging statement, ERG chairman and self-styled "Brexit hardman" Steve Baker signalled that his group could give its backing.

"We know there will be compromises, but we will be looking at this deal in minute detail, with a view to supporting it," he told Sky News after a Downing Street meeting.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) leaves from the rear of 10 Downing Street in central London on October 16, 2019. - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson briefed his ministers and key lawmakers on Wednesday on details of a Brexit deal taking shape in Brussels, while warning an agreement was still "shrouded in mist". (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
The PM addressed Tory backbenchers ahead of the crucial EU summit (Getty)

"But until we get that text, we can't say.”

Mr Johnson told the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers a day before the summit that his situation was like climbing Mount Everest, according to MPs in attendance.

Vehement Brexiteer Mark Francois said: "He said 'We are not quite at the summit, we are at the Hillary Step’.

"'The summit is not far but at the moment there is still cloud around the summit’."

A protester seen holding a placard that says �Brexit means Brexit" during the Leave means leave rally in London. A Leave means leave pro Brexit march begun on March 16 in Sunderland, UK and ended with a rally in Parliament Square on March 29 in London, same day that UK has been scheduled to leave the European Union. Pro Brexit protesters gathered at Parliament Square to demand from the government to deliver what was promised and leave the European Union without a deal. Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson were seen giving speeches to their supporters in different stages during the pro Brexit protest. (Photo by Andres Pantoja / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Mr Johnson has vowed to deliver Brexit by the Halloween deadline (PA)

What next?

Earlier on Wednesday, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay confirmed that the PM will write a letter asking for an Article 50 extension if no deal is in place by Saturday.

This is despite Mr Johnson repeatedly ruling out asking for a further delay under his "do or die" commitment to leave the EU by the current Halloween deadline.

MPs could decide on Thursday whether Parliament will sit on Saturday after the EU summit.

Their approval for such a move would allow Mr Johnson to put any deal to MPs in a proposed extraordinary sitting of Parliament on Saturday, between 9.30am and 2pm.

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