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DUP leader Arlene Foster believes no-deal Brexit 'the likeliest outcome', report claims

Category: Political News,Politics

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party believes a no-deal Brexit is the “likeliest” scenario, it has been reported.

Arlene Foster told a Conservative MEP she was “ready” for the failure of talks between the UK and the EU, according to an email leaked to The Observer newspaper.

Her comments to Ashley Fox are said to have been made after Ms Foster met with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier earlier this week.

“She described Barnier as being difficult and hostile in her meeting today,” the Observer quoted one email as saying. “AF said the DUP were ready for a no deal scenario, which she now believed was the likeliest one.”

The DUP, whose 10 MPs prop up Theresa May’s government, has already threatened to vote against the prime minister’s Brexit plans if they result in a border in the Irish Sea.

Ms Foster has said that she would not accept any border checks and warned Ms May not to accept a “dodgy” deal.

“The DUP’s actions this week are not as some have suggested about ‘flexing muscle’,” said Ms Foster.

“This is no game. Anyone engaging in this in a light-hearted way foolishly fails to grasp the gravity of the decisions we will make in the coming weeks.”

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The DUP has also warned its MPs could vote against the Budget, which could in turn trigger a vote of no-confidence if the government is defeated.

“That may lead to a different leader. But that’s not a question for us, we’re not members of the Conservative Party,” the DUP’s Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson said this week.

However several Labour MPs have told The Independent they may be prepared to support Ms May’s Brexit plan if the alternative is leaving the EU without a deal.

They said that at least 15 of their number could rebel against Mr Corbyn and back the government, which could be enough to tip the balance in the Commons in favour of the deal.

The Observer said the emails were “leaked from the highest levels of government”.

It came as David Davis urged cabinet ministers to “exert their collective authority” in opposition to Ms May’s plans, which the former Brexit secretary called “completely unacceptable”.

With continued speculation that Leave-supporting senior ministers could resign if Mrs May presses ahead with the proposal, David Davis said: “This is one of the most fundamental decisions that government has taken in modern times.”

Writing in The Sunday Times, he said: “It is time for the cabinet to exert their collective authority. This week the authority of our constitution is on the line.”

The issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is one of the last remaining obstacles to achieving a divorce deal with Brussels, with wrangling continuing over the nature of a “backstop” to keep the frontier open if a wider UK-EU trade arrangement cannot resolve it.

The European Union’s version, which would see just Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels’ rules, has been called unacceptable by Mrs May and is loathed by the DUP.

Mrs May’s counter-proposal is for a “temporary customs arrangement” for the whole UK, but Tory Brexiteers are suspicious this could turn into a permanent situation, restricting the freedom to strike trade deals around the world.

Additional reporting by agencies

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