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Dutch PM 'cautiously optimistic' about progress on Brexit talks

11 October 2018

DOWNING Street has played down expectations of an agreement on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union at a summit next week, warning that "big issues" remain to be resolved.

If they decide to take the same action on October 29's Budget vote, the Prime Minister's Government would be left clinging onto power.

Former Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith has warned Theresa May to "listen very carefully" to the DUP's warnings they could vote against her Budget if she crosses their Brexit red lines.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told the BBC that his party "have got to see the text, we've got to be happy with the text" of any agreement on Northern Ireland.

Wilson adds: "The road which the leaks and briefings is outlining is the road to parliamentary defeat for any deal the prime minister brings forward".

And he told fellow MPs: "If we stay on our current trajectory, we will go into the next election with the Government having delivered none of the benefits of Brexit, with the country reduced to being a rule-taker from Brussels, and having failed to deliver on a number of promises in the manifesto and in the Lancaster House speech".

With the support of the DUP, she commands a majority of only 13 lawmakers and needs to keep either her own party onside or attract votes from the main opposition Labour Party. Michael Russell will be there representing the Scottish Government and is expected to once again sound the alarm about the damage to Scotland's economy a hard or no-deal Brexit would do. It will come into effect at the end of the proposed transition period, in January 2021, unless a new trading arrangement which protects the open Irish border is in place.

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Commenting on the Irish backstop, Barnier said the EU's plan to keep Northern Ireland in the Single Market and customs union would help keep the border invisible - a goal of both sets of negotiators.

DUP leader Arlene Foster insisted on Tuesday that her party would not accept customs or regulatory checks on goods travelling in either direction between Northern Ireland and Great Britain after meeting EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels, and again following talks on Wednesday with European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt.

The EU chief negotiator accepted new administrative procedures for goods travelling between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain would be "politically sensitive" but he noted: "Brexit was not our choice; it is the choice of the United Kingdom".

There is also the issue of trade.

"The confidence and supply arrangement we have with the DUP is a matter of record", he replied.

The comments appeared to pour cold water on upbeat assessments on the prospects of a deal made by senior European Union figures over recent days.

Dutch PM 'cautiously optimistic' about progress on Brexit talks