Theresa May confident Brexit deal can be done in time

Arlene Foster says more work needed on Border text

Brexit secretary David Davis: Told a select committee 53 sectoral analyses  he had previously described as “excruciatingly” detailed on the impact of leaving the EU on the British economy, did not actually exist. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

Brexit secretary David Davis: Told a select committee 53 sectoral analyses he had previously described as “excruciatingly” detailed on the impact of leaving the EU on the British economy, did not actually exist. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

 

British prime minister Theresa May has said she remains confident that a Brexit deal can be agreed in time for next week’s summit, telling MPs that “we are at the point of progressing on to the next stage” of negotiations.

Downing Street described a call between Ms May and Arlene Foster as “constructive” but the DUP leader said there was more work to do before her party could endorse agreed language on the future of the Border.

During a call with the Taoiseach later, the prime minister said she was working hard to find a “specific solution” to the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland. But her ministers have told MPs that any regulatory alignment with the EU that was required to keep the Border open would have to apply to the whole of the UK.

The suggestion that Britain could shadow EU regulations after Brexit has alarmed Conservative Brexiteers, prompting Jacob Rees-Mogg to question the prime minister’s commitment to leaving the single market and the customs union.

“Before my right honourable friend next goes to Brussels, will she apply a new coat of paint to her red lines, because I fear that on Monday they were beginning to look a little bit pink,” he said.

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The British government’s lack of preparation for Brexit came under the spotlight on Wednesday when Brexit secretary David Davis admitted that it had not undertaken any assessment of the impact of leaving the EU on the British economy.

He told a Commons select committee that 53 sectoral analyses he had previously described as “excruciatingly” detailed, did not actually exist.

A few hours later, chancellor Philip Hammond told another committee that the cabinet had not yet discussed what kind of post-Brexit trading relationship with the EU Britain should seek.

“The cabinet has had general discussions about our Brexit negotiations, but we haven’t had a specific mandating of an end-state position,” he said.

Opposition parties seized on the chancellor’s admission as evidence of the government’s dysfunction over Brexit and Downing Street said later that the cabinet would discuss the end-state of Brexit before the end of the year.

Independent Unionist MP Sylvia Hermon on Wednesday withdrew an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that would have guaranteed that it will respect the Belfast Agreement. She did so following an assurance from the government that it would seek another way of making the guarantee. In a passionate speech to the House, Lady Hermon, whose late husband Jack was chief constable of the RUC from 1980 to 1989, spoke about the transformative impact of the agreement on the area of Co Tyrone where she grew up.

“Our postman was murdered at the end of our lane. Many of our farming neighbours were attacked on their tractors, or went out to a shed and opened the door, and there was a booby trap that blew off their head or face. My late father made it to 92, but he had to attend innumerable funerals of our neighbours, both Catholic and Protestant,” she said.

“The Border became virtually invisible where once we had had watchtowers, murders, security checks and unapproved roads. The roads had been cratered, so that someone going to school on the other side of the Border, or to a community hall, or church, or chapel, had to get out of their car and tiptoe around on the uncratered part of the road. Those roads have been filled in again. We have normality in Northern Ireland, we have peace, and we undoubtedly have people alive today who would not otherwise be alive.”