Theresa May's call to Arlene Foster fails to break deadlock

Catherine Neilan
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The Prime Minister Meets DUP Leader At Downing Street
The DUP has refused to budge so far (Source: Getty)

Theresa May's phone call with Arlene Foster has not resulted in any breakthrough on the Irish border question - as the Friday deadline imposed by Brussels looms.

The Prime Minister had expected to speak to the leader of the DUP yesterday, but it was delayed until this morning. But if May was hoping to secure a commitment to the proposal leaked ahead of Monday's meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, she would have been disappointed.

City A.M. understands that Foster has not yet been won over, with DUP sources saying "work is continuing" - pointing to that work being carried out in London rather than Belfast.

A government spokesman said the phone call was "constructive".

But Foster has "no plans" to come to Westminster currently "though she may well come at some stage," a DUP spokesman said. "Nothing is in place, and we are not putting any particular timetable on things," he added.

May appeared to admit that there had been no progress during PMQs. May told Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that her plan was that there be "no hard border between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland, we will do that while we respect the constitutional integrity of the UK and while we respect the internal market and protect the internal of the UK"

In response to several Labour MPs asking 'how?', she added: "That's the whole point of the second phase of the negotiations because we aim to deliver this as part of our overall trade deal between the EU and the UK. We can only talk about that when we get into phase two."

In response to a separate question regarding the existence of the 58 sectoral assessments, May reiterated: "We will ensure we leave the EU in March 2019, we will leave the internal market, we will leave the customs union at the same time and we will ensure there is no hard border between N Ireland the Republic of Ireland while we do it."

Although the official deadline for satisfying the requirements to make sufficient progress is not until the end of next week, when the European Council meets, May has been warned by Brussels that she must have an offer in place by this Friday.

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