Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans were thrown into chaos last night after a furious row erupted between Ireland and the hardline DUP.
The Prime Minister’s new blueprint was already hanging by a thread after the European Union said it did not go far enough.
He admitted talks on replacing the controversial Irish backstop with two borders were “some way from a resolution”.
EU chief Donald Tusk declared: “We remain open but still unconvinced.”
The European Council President added that leaders were “fully behind” Ireland after Dublin all but rejected the proposals.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Mr Johnson’s plan for the border “falls short” in several areas while foreign minister Simon Coveney warned “if that is the final proposal, there will be no deal”.
But DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose party props up Mr Johnson’s fragile Government, criticised the remarks as “deeply unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent”.
Her deputy, Nigel Dodds, added: “The incendiary comments by Leo Varadkar and his foreign minister are a clear ramping up of rhetoric designed to derail any prospect of a deal.”
Senior Whitehall figures are alarmed by the potential impact the PM’s plan could have on the Northern Ireland peace process.
There was concern yesterday that the war of words between the Irish and the Unionist DUP could destabilise an already fragile situation.
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Former Northern Ireland Secretary Lord Hain told the Mirror: “This extreme DUP belligerence is an awful throwback to the division and conflict of the pre-Good Friday Agreement days.”
A senior Brussels source said they had looked at the detail of the PM’s plan, concluding: “It’s hard to see how this can work”.
The European Parliament’s Guy Verhofstadt said the plans were “repackaging the bad ideas that have already been floated”.
Downing Street is considering giving MPs the chance to vote on his plans to try to pressurise Brussels into striking a new deal.
Their hardline DUP allies and a string of Tory Brexiteer rebels gave their backing, but a majority would still depend on Labour votes.
Sources said Mr Johnson told Cabinet yesterday that he planned to shower the EU and Labour MPs with “glutinous emollience”.
In the Commons, the PM claimed he wanted UK standards to be the “highest in the world”.
No 10 officials later raised the prospect of talks with Labour MPs on post-Brexit workers’ rights, a route also followed by Theresa May to try to win support.
But Jeremy Corbyn told the Commons: “No Labour MP could support such a reckless deal that will be used as a springboard to attack rights and standards in this country.”
The Mirror understands a handful of Labour MPs with Leave seats, possibly as many as 20, were open to backing a deal.
UK officials will continue talks with their EU counterparts today on whether a way can be found through the Brexit deadlock.
Under the PM’s plan, checks would be required on some goods traded across the Irish border, as well as on some trade across the Irish Sea, effectively creating two soft borders.
He pledged there would be no new physical infrastructure, with checks taking place in existing locations.
A humiliated Mr Johnson signalled he was prepared to move further to reach agreement – even though No 10 said the proposal was the UK’s “final offer” the day before.
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Downing Street appeared to row back from the hardline stance, suggesting the proposals with the Irish border were a “broad landing zone” and the “basis for discussion”.
But the DUP’s Ms Foster warned: “The proposal won’t be amended… We are certainly moving into the territory of No Deal”.
With a Queen’s Speech pencilled in for 10 days time there was speculation about new funding to sweeten a new confidence and supply arrangement. The province got an extra £1bn after the last one.
No 10 aides claimed that any extra money for Northern Ireland would benefit cross-border communities but denied Mr Johnson was taking his chequebook to meetings with the Unionist party.
Mr Johnson told MPs he was making a “genuine attempt to bridge the chasm” with Brussels by making compromises – as the clock ticks down to the scheduled October 31 Brexit Day.
As predecessor Theresa May looked on witheringly, he claimed his plan was better than to “remain a prisoner” of the Brexit deadlock.