Robert Peston Robert Peston

Theresa May’s Brexit aim is no longer Mission Impossible

Politics is all about words, which only sometimes mean what they seem to say. So if you took what the DUP leader in Westminster said on my show last night you would think that just maybe there is a route through the current parliamentary chaos for the PM towards a Brexit deal that MPs could approve.

The DUP’s Nigel Dodds told me:

“Well I think that the Prime Minister if I may say so maybe is extending a bit of an olive branch to us in the sense that she is now sitting down with us, acknowledging that we have an issue, acknowledging that it’s not just an issue we have but many in her party are now saying that she’s listening and she’s now prepared to go out she says to get those legal changes that are necessary.”

The mots justes in what Dodds said are “legal changes”. Following a meeting he had with her, he thinks she will try to secure legally binding changes to the Ireland backstop so that either it does not drive a regulatory wedge between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, or it is strictly time limited or there is a break clause unilaterally exercisable by the UK.

And the PM seemed to confirm that offer when she said last night on the steps of Downing Street that “when I go to the European Council tomorrow I will be seeking legal and political assurances”.

How likely is the PM to secure any of that from EU leaders in Brussels, where she has headed today? The answer is that if Dodds and his colleagues continue to be purists about all of this, there is not the remotest chance. Because, as Dodds has previously said to me, only changes to the so-called Withdrawal Agreement would deliver absolute legal certainty.

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