May briefs ministers ahead of crunch Brexit talks

Arlene Foster said the EU plan would effectively mean imposing a trade barrier between the Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK

With less than six months to go until the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, its most momentous shift in foreign and trade policy for over four decades, May is seeking to rally support at home on the details of a divorce deal though it is unclear if she can win parliamentary approval.

British Prime Minister Theresa May struggled on Friday to find consensus on a Brexit plan that would be acceptable to her ministers, her divided Conservative Party and the Northern Irish lawmakers who prop up her minority government.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, Environment Secretary Michael Gove and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox are reported to have expressed their discontent in the meeting on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the issue of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland continued to pose a headache for Mrs May as it is one of the last remaining obstacles to achieving a divorce deal.

The DUP leader said proposals for a "backstop" arrangement - effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the single market and custom union to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland - would lead to its "permanent annexation" from the UK.

The DUP has predicted "developments" in the government's Brexit position this weekend, after the party threatened to withdraw support for Theresa May if she caves in to Brussel's demands for a border in the Irish Sea.

However, Westminster was rife with speculation of possible resignations if Mrs May compromises too much in her attempt to win an agreement.

The party's Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson urged Mrs May to show European Union negotiators "the door".

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Foster said her party, which has 10 lawmakers in the United Kingdom parliament, was not bluffing in its tough stance on the talks. She added: "The Prime Minister is a Unionist".

Q. What is the UK's response?

Pensions secretary Esther McVey pointedly refused to endorse the PM's plan during the latest cabinet meeting and global development secretary Penny Mordaunt and the leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom also made it clear they held deep concerns.

Meanwhile, pro-EU Tory MPs faced a campaign orchestrated by insurance tycoon and Leave.EU founder Arron Banks - although he insisted the funding came from Brexit-supporting small donors. "Hate to say I told you so".

Mr Collins said: 'He can send as many letters as he likes, I won't stop doing my job'.

Mr Baker said: "That won't wash".

'We at Leave Means Leave are going to build national branches all over the country to fight for democracy from grassroots level and to deliver the Brexit that people voted for'.

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