Tories meet DUP to nail down support for Brexit deal
The UK government is locked in talks with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to seek backing for Theresa May's Brexit plan ahead of a third 'meaningful vote' next Tuesday.
The talks, which are being attended by the Conservative Party bigwigs such as attorney general Geoffrey Cox and chancellor Philip Hammond, may continue through the weekend.
Discussions will undoubtedly centre around the issue of the Irish backstop and the Northern Irish Assembly's role in it, with several DUP MPs understood to be unhappy about the current arrangement.
The DUP’s Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, has stated that May’s government has failed to implement what was agreed and included in paragraph 50 of the joint report in December 2017, which stated the assembly would be able to veto any new regulatory difference.
The support of the Northern Irish party will likely be essential if May's proposals are to finally pass at the third time of asking after a slew of Brexiteer Tory MPs joined the lions share of opposition MPs in twice trampling the deal in the House of Commons.
After this week's rejection of the deal, MPs voted to request a delay to the UK's exit from the EU from 29 March to 30 June if the Commons approves a deal by next Wednesday.
If the deal is once again rejected, Brexit could be subject to an even longer delay, something that some DUP MPs would view as a disaster.
DUP MP Gavin Robinson told BBC Radio Ulster: "If it is an interminable delay where there is no prospect of an agreement – one that invokes the running of European parliamentary elections in Northern Ireland – that is a disaster for people that voted to leave the European Union in 2016 that in no way honours the expression of their will."
However, it remains unclear whether the EU will approve any delays to the Brexit process as all other 27 member nations would have to agree to the terms of such and extension.
European Council President Donald Tusk said EU leaders may only be open to a lengthy delay "if the UK finds it necessary to rethink its Brexit strategy".