Theresa May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, has insisted the government remains confident it can get its Brexit deal through parliament, despite the Democratic Unionist party warning it is prepared to vote it down.
Speaking in the Isle of Man, where he was attending a meeting of the British-Irish Council, Lidington said he believed a “new dynamic” would emerge once MPs saw the full text of the proposed agreement.
He said: “I hope and I believe that we can secure that majority in parliament.”
Lidington was speaking after the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, Sammy Wilson, said his party was prepared to vote against May’s deal.
The Northern Irish party, upon which May upon for her Commons majority, had reacted angrily to suggestions in a letter from the prime minister, which had been leaked to the Times, that Northern Ireland could have a different regulatory regime to the rest of the UK if the Irish backstop comes into force.
Wilson said Conservative MPs also had concerns about other aspects of the mooted deal. “If she continues down the road of bringing something forward which is unacceptable to a large part of her own party and ourselves, then I think the inevitable consequence is that it will be voted down in the House of Commons,” Wilson told Sky News.
The DUP accused May of breaking a promise that she would never sign up to a deal that treated Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK.
The party has seized on a particular paragraph of the letter in which May said she could not allow circumstances or conditions that could break up the UK customs territory to “come into force”.
The EU has insisted on a Northern Ireland-only “backstop to the backstop” in case negotiations on a wider UK approach break down. Any version of the backstop would apply unless and until a wider UK-EU deal on the future relationship solved the issue of how to avoid a hard border in Ireland.