Brexit’s impact on the Union is the sole prism through which the DUP will judge any deal to leave the EU, Nigel Dodds has insisted.
The party’s deputy leader said it would be “economic madness” to support the terms of the current agreement on the table, claiming it would separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
He rejected those who portray the deal, which would see Northern Ireland align with single market rules but remain part of the UK’s customs territory, as the “best of both worlds”.
“This is the worst of all worlds,” he told the DUP’s annual conference in Belfast.
“It would be economic madness for Northern Ireland to stand by and allow ourselves to have such impediments put in the way of trade with our largest market within our own borders.
“Increased costs, administrative burdens and less consumer choice are the outworking of the Prime Minister’s proposals for Northern Ireland.”
During his address, Mr Dodds directly quoted a section of Mr Johnson’s speech at the same event last year, when he pledged not to erect economic barriers in the Irish Sea.
“Respectfully, stick to your word, Prime Minister,” he said.
“This party has always made clear that we want a deal.
“A deal that works for the whole of the United Kingdom and for the European Union. A deal that recognises Northern Ireland’s unique history and geography.
“A deal that supports our business community and families across this Province.
“But, this party will only support a deal that ensures Northern Ireland leaves the European Union in a way that protects both the economic and constitutional integrity of our United Kingdom.”
Mr Dodds added: “Today I give clear notice that going forward the Democratic Unionist Party will look at every proposal, every legislative provision, and every amendment through one prism and one prism only – how does this best protect the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
“Some would say yes to anything, some would say no to everything, the DUP does what is right for Northern Ireland.
“The Prime Minister wants to deliver Brexit and so do we.
“We were ready and willing to support a sensible Brexit deal for the whole of the United Kingdom. But not at any price.
“The road map to a majority in the House of Commons is clear.
“The quest to deliver Brexit can be complete with our votes. Together, as one United Kingdom.
“There can be no doubting that the events of the past three years have placed immense pressures on relations across these islands, on businesses and communities.
“That is why any Brexit deal cannot erect new barriers. We need our people to come together, not create more division.”