Cabinet minister and arch-Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg has urged fellow Brexiteers to trust Boris Johnson – but the PM’s chances of getting any new deal through parliament has been dealt a blow by the DUP.
Downing Street has confirmed Mr Johnson will update the cabinet on the progress of talks in a conference call on Sunday afternoon.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Rees-Mogg calls on Brexit supporters to recognise that “compromise will inevitably be needed” but that “as a Leaver, Boris can be trusted”.
But the DUP’s Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, has made it clear that any resolution that would see Northern Ireland remain within the EU’s customs union “cannot work”.
Asked by Italian newspaper La Repubblica whether his party could back a deal along the lines suggested so far, he said: “We’ll wait and see.”
He added: “There’s a lot of stuff coming from Brussels, pushed by the Europeans in the last hours, but one thing is sure: Northern Ireland must remain fully part of the UK customs union. And Boris Johnson knows it very well.”
Mr Johnson’s vow to “get Brexit done” will be at the centre of the new legislative agenda set to be outlined in the Queen’s Speech on Monday.
“Getting Brexit done by 31 October is absolutely crucial, and we are continuing to work on an exit deal so we can move on to negotiating a future relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation with our European friends,” the prime minister said in a statement.
“But the people of this country don’t just want us to sort out Brexit. They want their NHS to be stronger, their streets safer, their wi-fi faster, the air they breathe cleaner, their kids’ schools better-funded – and this optimistic and ambitious Queen’s Speech sets us on a course to make all that happen, and more besides.”
In reference to this weekend’s “intensive negotiations” in Brussels, a Downing Street source said: “We’ve always wanted a deal. It is good to see progress, but we will wait to see if this is a genuine breakthrough.”
They added: “We are a long way from a final deal and the weekend and next week remain critical to leaving with a deal on October 31st. We remain prepared to leave without a deal on October 31st.”
Sky News understands that the main element of the UK’s latest proposal is a variation of the ‘new customs partnership’ first put forward by Theresa May.
It would see Northern Ireland leave the EU’s customs union with the rest of the UK, but collect customs tariffs on the EU’s behalf – resulting in an effective customs border in the Irish sea.
Northern Irish businesses would be able to apply for a rebate of any tariff charges that were higher than the rates set by the UK – if they could show the goods were sold in Northern Ireland and not transferred into the EU via the Republic of Ireland.
Asked repeatedly on Friday whether he could confirm that Northern Ireland would leave the customs union in the terms of the deal he is seeking to negotiate, Mr Johnson simply replied that he would not accept anything that “damages the ability of the whole of the United Kingdom to take full advantage of Brexit”.
The Queen’s speech is expected to include 22 new Bills, covering healthcare, fighting serious and violent crime, and science and infrastructure.