LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May urged lawmakers in the lower house of parliament on Wednesday to back her strategy on Brexit in the national interest amid rumors the hard-line Northern Irish party that props up the minority conservative government could vote down the next budget proposals if Northern Ireland is treated differently from the rest of the country as part of an exit deal with the European Union.
May faces an uphill struggle pushing her Chequers plan on Brexit through the House of Commons amid hostility not from lawmakers from the Labour Party on opposition benches, the Scottish National Party but also from members of her own Conservatives.
“I would hope that everybody across this whole House will put the national interest first,” the British PM told Commons.
Brexit negotiations were now entering a crunch period just over a week before the European Council summit, in which the terms of the divorce are set to feature high on the agenda.
But the pressure mounted further Wednesday when a senior source from the Democratic Unionist Party, a right-wing, pro-British Northern Irish party whose 10 MPs in the Commons act as confidence and supply for the Tories, told Sky News their party would be willing to shoot down the government’s next budget if May compromises on Northern Ireland’s territorial integrity at the summit.
The introduction of any border checks along the currently soft Irish border or maintaining customary alignment with the EU to avoid tariffs would both be crossing a “blood red line,” the party source warned.
The UK is on track to leave the EU in March 2019 with or without a deal.
Several officials in the EU have already picked May’s Brexit plan apart and said it needed more work.
The EU hopes to have thrashed out the final Brexit deal by October, although has not ruled out an extraordinary summit the following month should that fail.