Tories will need to call the DUP’s bluff

Arlene Foster © Getty images
Foster: opposed to May’s Brexit backstop

Theresa May’s efforts to unlock a Brexit deal “have been dealt a blow by the Ulster Unionists who prop up her government”, says the Financial Times. Recently there have been hints that May “will propose measures that could bind Northern Ireland to the bloc’s standards on goods, if other attempts to avoid a hard border failed, so ensuring there would be no need for checks on north-south trade”.

That would in theory require checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK if May were to stick to her pledge to leave the customs union and single market. But after meeting with May, the Democratic Unionist Party’s Arlene Foster stated that “no border in the Irish Sea will ever be acceptable to unionists throughout the UK”.

Foster added that the Good Friday Agreement – which removed all checkpoints between Ireland and Northern Ireland – was not sacrosanct and could be amended to accommodate Brexit. She’s right that the agreement was not “handed down on tablets of stone”, says the Times. Still, it has “saved many hundreds of lives, perhaps thousands if the previous three decades of the Troubles are anything to go by”. It’s therefore “plain reckless” for the DUP to put it at risk by insisting that the UK pursue “the hardest Brexit option”.

The prime minister may have to call the DUP’s bluff anyway, says Patrick Maguire in the New Statesman. Her government “cannot reconcile its red lines”. If it wants to strike a deal, it is “going to have to screw someone”. While “ministers talk as if it won’t be their unionist allies”, the fact is that “every solution that surfaces involves upsetting them”.