Published: Fri, October 12, 2018
Business | By Eloise Houston

Brexit: No deal brings risk of stockpiling says watchdog

Brexit: No deal brings risk of stockpiling says watchdog

Theresa May must abandon her plans for free trade deals with the rest of the world in order to get a Brexit deal, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said yesterday.

The unionist leader said she feared that the European Union was forcing Northern Ireland into a deal that amounted to "the worst of one world" in which the region would remain part of the single market and remain under the ECJ, and would remain subject to trade restrictions with the rest of the UK.

If the DUP votes against the budget, which will be presented on October 29, this could trigger a confidence motion and a general election if the government loses.

Theresa May is facing a fresh challenge to her Brexit plans from her Democratic Unionist Party allies, who are threatening to vote against the Budget if she breaks their red lines.

The issue of the Irish border, the major sticking point, was "close to being settled", it said. It must be one of the worrying questions for Downing Street.

It came as Mrs May's "inner cabinet" was briefed last night on plans for a no-deal Brexit amid reports that progress ahead of a crucial European Union summit next week had been slower than hoped.

The de-facto Deputy Prime Minister was pressed on the DUP's support when he appeared on ITV's Peston on Wednesday night.

Speaking to Sky News in his constituency of Larne on Northern Ireland's east coast, Mr Wilson said that the DUP were not going to be "bullied" or "bribed" into supporting a deal that could see Northern Ireland effectively kept in the single market or customs union.

While talks with Brussels have intensified since May emerged from her infighting Conservative party conference last week, there has been no breakthrough.

The deal believed to be on the table involves keeping the whole United Kingdom in an "arrangement" that effectively preserves the existing EU customs union, ensuring the goods continue to move freely over the Irish land border regardless of the future trade relationship between London and Brussels.

The Prime Minister relies on the support of 10 of Northern Ireland's DUP MPs to prop her up in the House of Commons and to secure their backing senior Tories are ready to offer them a bribe.

For customs and VAT, Barnier said, "we propose using the existing customs procedures to avoid doing checks at the transit points".

Eurosceptic Conservative MPs who want a clean break with the European Union have expressed alarm at reports that, as it races to get a deal, the government may agree this alignment would last indefinitely.

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