The DUP has not ruled out supporting the prime minister’s Brexit deal when she attempts to get it through Parliament for a third time next week.
The party is in talks with the government amid reports it may consider backing the withdrawal agreement, which was heavily defeated in the Commons for a second time on Tuesday.
Speaking from Washington DC, where she also held discussions with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, DUP leader Arlene Foster insisted a deal could still be reached in the coming weeks, adding: “When you come to the end of a negotiation that’s when you really start to see the whites in people’s eyes and you get down to the point where you can make a deal.”
But while the DUP’s Jim Shannon said he and his fellow MPs wanted to support “the right deal”, he told the News Letter: “We will not sell our soul for a deal that threatens the Union.”
The DUP dealt a hammer blow to Mrs May’s attempts to get her much-maligned deal through Parliament on Tuesday, with the party making it clear that it was not satisfied with the progress she has made in negotiations with the EU.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox has warned that, while the PM’s last-minute agreements with Brussels “reduce the risk” that the UK could be trapped indefinitely in the backstop, they do not remove it altogether.
The DUP has stated that any changes to the backstop must be made “at treaty level”.
When asked yesterday if the PM’s deal was now effectively dead, Mr Shannon replied: “We will have to wait and see what happens.
“It is clear what we want. We need a legally binding time-limited backstop. The government knows that is what they have to deliver and it is up to them to go back and get that.
“Our priority is preservation of the Union; that Northern Ireland is treated the same as England, Scotland and Wales. That is the critical factor in all of this for us.”
While the majority of Tory Brexiteer MPs from the European Research Group (ERG) also voted against Mrs May’s revised deal, a number also sided with the government.
ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg told The Guardian he would vote for Mrs May’s Brexit deal if the DUP was satisfied with it.
He added: “I am a unionist but it is difficult for me to be more unionist than the DUP and if they are happy with the way of getting out of the backstop and that is good enough for Northern Ireland then I expect it would be good enough for some of us.”