Brexit: '˜We wouldn't accept a deal incorporating a border in the Irish Sea'

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Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright has stressed that any potential Brexit deal requiring a border in the Irish Sea would not be acceptable to the UK government.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Wright said: “Were there to be a border down the Irish Sea, as I’ve said and the Prime Minister has said, we wouldn’t accept a deal incorporating that.

“What’s important is we get a deal that satisfies our requirements - and by our requirements I mean the whole of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.

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“We don’t have that proposed deal yet. When we do we’ll be able to discuss it.

Sammy Wilson MP. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.Sammy Wilson MP. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.
Sammy Wilson MP. Picture: Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

“There is no doubt we have understood the concern the DUP and others have expressed about a hard border down the Irish Sea, we share it, and we will not accept a deal that involves that component.”

Mr Wright’s remarks came after his interview was paused as DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson was on the phone.

Mr Wilson said the DUP has “a number of concerns” and accused Downing Street of leaking the letter sent to DUP leader Arlene Foster, telling the same programme: “I assume it’s part of the process of trying to get into the public domain what will finally be agreed.”

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Mr Wilson also said: “In that letter it makes it quite clear the government has accepted there will be a Northern Ireland-only backstop, that backstop will require specific alignment for regulations, a solution which does that, and the scope of that will be carefully subscribed.

“Thirdly, the promise which was made in the agreement in December that if there was to be any regulatory alignment then Northern Ireland would have a say on that - that seems to have been removed as well, which would mean regulations which would apply to Northern Ireland would not be decided at Westminster, would have no input from Northern Ireland and would come only from the EU.

“That, to us, is a breach of the promise which has been made that we would not be cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Asked if he accepted Theresa May’s pledge of no border in the Irish Sea, Mr Wilson replied: “We want to trust the Prime Minister because she has said so many times that that is the case, but you have to judge any promise by what is actually delivered in an agreement.

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“From what we can see in the letter which has been sent to Arlene and Nigel (Dodds), it is quite clear some of the promises made do not conform to some of the content of the letter.”

Referring to calls for the government to publish the legal advice it has been given on the Irish border issue, Mr Wright said it is “certainly possible” to release legal advice given to the government.

But he told the BBC: “We don’t do it because it’s important the legal advice government gets is frank, is honest and, if it’s something the giver of that advice thinks might appear on the front page of a newspaper, there is no guarantee it will be phrased in a way that is most helpful to the government decision-making process.”

Mr Wright added: “summaries are sometimes set out” to help MPs understand issues, noting: “It will be up to the government as a whole to decide whether that’s the appropriate course here.”

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Mr Wilson said he understood the points raised, but added that Irish border Brexit advice should be published.

He told the BBC: “I think it is important that, for the sake of clarity and so everyone knows what they’re signing up to, that the convention is breached in this case and the legal advice be made available.”