The party has solidly opposed any agreement which could see Northern Ireland diverge significantly from Great Britain in terms of customs arrangements.
But a report in The Times claimed the party could now accept “abiding by some European Union rules”, in exchange for the EU side dropping a demand for Northern Ireland to stay in a formal customs union.
The story comes as Boris Johnson has increasingly pointed to different arrangements for the nation, which has been without a devolved parliament for two and a half years.
But while the report relied on private remarks, the DUP was quick to publicly pour cold water on any sense that they had shifted from their original position.
“The only different arrangements we will accept for Northern Ireland are those where the Assembly has total scrutiny of EU legislation, decides it’s in the interest of Northern Ireland and doesn’t damage our relationship with the UK,” DUP MP Sammy Wilson told BBC Good Morning Ulster.
The issue of a “Stormont lock” emerged in negotiations during Theresa May’s tenure and is considered to be difficult because it could lead to Northern Ireland diverging from Ireland’s customs regime in major ways – making the backstop useless for keeping the border open.
The DUP has been the biggest party in the Assembly in Stormont since 2007, providing the past three First Ministers in the form of Ian Paisley, Peter Robinson and Arlene Foster.
However, because of the rules of powersharing enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, DUP leaders must serve alongside the largest nationalist party – usually Sinn Féin.
Arlene Foster tweeted in response to the claim that the DUP was changing its view: “UK must leave as one nation.
“We are keen to see a sensible deal but not one that divides the internal market of the UK.
“We will not support any arrangements that create a barrier to East West trade.
“Anonymous sources lead to nonsense stories.”
Sanitary and phytosanitary union
The issue of the backstop continues to divide the UK and the EU when it comes to the Withdrawal Agreement.
The UK’s side has proposed alternative arrangements to make it obsolete – but the EU says it has yet to receive an actual proposal.
The Prime Minister, when visiting Dublin earlier this week, raised the prospect of a “sanitary and phytosanitary union” for agrifoods between the Irish and Northern Irish jurisdictions, something which exists already ahead of Brexit.
DUP grandee Jeffrey Donaldson told BBC Question Time last night that he remains optimistic of a negotiated solution.
“We believe the best way to leave the European Union is with a deal and we’re working at that,” he said.
“I don’t accept that it’s impossible to get a deal, I think it is.
Some of the statements being made now by the Irish government are far more positive.
‘Beginning to see a shift’
He cited statements from the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and new EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan on willingness to consider alternative arrangements, adding: “I think we’re beginning to see a shift.”
While the DUP supported Mrs May in a confidence and supply agreement and appears to be willing to honour that agreement under Mr Johnson, the new Prime Minister does not have sufficient votes to pass any legislation, even with DUP help, after kicking out 21 Conservative MPs for rebelling.
Even a Brexit deal which commanded DUP support would require backing from other parties – most likely from Labour backbenchers. Significant numbers could be required to vote with the Government if the ERG “Spartans”, who have long opposed the Withdrawal Agreement, fail to fall in line.
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