11 Oct 2018

Did the Brexit deal just get paused?

In a strange echo of when the DUP stalled Theresa May’s last attempt at a breakthrough in Brussels in December of last year, it sounds like the Northern Ireland party might have done the same thing all over again.

UTV’s Ken Reid has been told by no less a source than the Prime Minister herself that next week’s summit might not sign off on an exit plan for the UK – the conclusion to the so-called Article 50 talks. The plan had been to shake on that part of the agreement in Brussels next week and on the declaration on the future relationship a few weeks later in mid November.

Mrs May herself now seems to be suggesting that the first part of the deal will not be shaken on next week. The presumption must be it is not cooked though. One DUP source wondered if it was just a way of making sure any agreement is done after the votes on the Budget, given that the DUP and maybe some Tory MPs with them are signalling they might vote against Budget measures. The Budget is planned for 29th October.

DUP MPs have been in and out of the Chief Whip’s office on the corner of Downing Street in recent days. They complain that they just hear warm words – “it’s all still very vague,” one DUP source said.  They have not seen draft text but the deal that seems to be taking shape offends them as unionists and as Brexiteers. There’s a summary of where things appear to be here and you don’t need to be a died in the wool unionist to see the challenges for the DUP in this set-up.

Update:

Suggestions now that the answer to the question in the headline to this blog is “no.” My apologies if I got this wrong. EU officials call this final phase of talks “going into the tunnel” and I didn’t mean to add to the darkness.

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