LONDON - The Northern Irish party that props up British Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government is demanding a seat at post-Brexit trade talks as its price for supporting her twice-defeated divorce deal, The Sunday Telegraph newspaper reported.
The Democratic Unionist Party also wants a guarantee that Northern Ireland will be treated no differently from the rest of the United Kingdom, the newspaper said.
"We are determined that Brexit should happen in accordance with the referendum result, but the only way it can happen which is acceptable to us is if the United Kingdom is treated as one," DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds told The Sunday Telegraph. "The government is now focused on this key issue, but political statements or pledges are not enough."
Earlier, May warned lawmakers that unless they approved her twice-defeated Brexit divorce deal, Britain's exit from the European Union could face a long delay and could involve taking part in European Parliament elections.
After 2½ years of tortuous divorce negotiations with the EU, the final outcome is still uncertain with options including a long delay, exiting with May's deal, a disorderly exit without a deal, or even another referendum.
May has issued Brexit supporters a clear ultimatum: Ratify her deal by a European Council summit March 21 or face a delay to Brexit way beyond June 30 that would open up the possibility that the entire divorce could be ultimately thwarted.
Negotiation of a new deal "would mean a much longer extension — almost certainly requiring the United Kingdom to participate in the European Parliament elections in May," she told The Sunday Telegraph.
"The idea of the British people going to the polls to elect MEPs three years after voting to leave the EU hardly bears thinking about. There could be no more potent symbol of Parliament's collective political failure."
EU leaders will consider pressing Britain to delay Brexit by at least a year to find a way out of the domestic maelstrom, though there is shock and growing impatience at the political chaos in London.
Her deal, an attempt to keep close relations with the EU while leaving the bloc's formal structures, was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on Jan. 15 and by 149 votes on March 12.
But May continues to fight to build support for her plan, which is expected to put before lawmakers for a third time next week, possibly on Tuesday.
To get it through Parliament, the prime minister must win over dozens of Brexit-supporting rebels in her own Conservative Party — and the Democratic Unionist Party.
The DUP has voted against May's plan because of concerns about the Northern Ireland backstop, which is an insurance policy aimed at maintaining an open border between the British province of Northern
Ireland and EU member Ireland.