It has once again been one of those weeks for Prime Minister Theresa May. On Tuesday, she came to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, ready to sign off on a £50bn divorce package the UK would pay to the EU in order to finally start negotiating a trade deal. With that in mind, she arrived for her meeting with EU President Jean-Claude Juncker and stated to the press that they would have a two-hour meeting after which the document would be signed.
However, in a remarkable turn, Ms May got a telephone call from Ms Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, the Northern Irish political party who is the junior partner in her coalition government.
The DUP claimed they could not agree to the terms regarding the Irish border. In other words, Ms May had a choice: sign the agreement with the EU and lose her government (as the DUP would then withdraw their support), or renegotiate a better deal for Ireland and get the DUP to accept it.
Ms May is very aware that no one on her own Tory party will allow her to ever be Prime Minister after this ‘annus horribilis’ for the UK again, so she chose to not sign the agreement, return to London empty-handed, and start re-negotiating with the DUP.
However, this leaves the EU and the UK with a very short timeframe to start trade negotiations.
The chief negotiator for the EU, Mr Michel Barnier has now warned the UK. Their government has 48 hours left to get a deal. If not, there will be no moving forward to trade negotiations.
In Ireland meanwhile, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar also reacted astonished to the power the Northern Irish DUP seem to have over the UK government. He does, however, hope a deal can still be made, stating: “Having consulted with people in London, Ms May wants to come back to us with text tonight and tomorrow. And I expect to move forward as well. I want us to move forward if it’s possible next week.”