DUP rejects PM’s deal over risk to UK integrity

The DUP has again rejected the Prime Minister’s proposed Brexit deal as posing an “unacceptable” risk to the integrity of the UK.

The Northern Irish unionists confirmed they would not support Theresa May if she tabled another meaningful vote in Parliament.

The party’s 10 MPs have been propping up the Tory administration, and their view on Brexit has been key to the Government’s prospects of securing agreement.

They claimed her solution would trap Northern Ireland in the Irish border backstop insurance policy contained within the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

The Democratic Unionists said: “The backstop if operational has the potential to create an internal trade border within the United Kingdom and would cut us off from our main internal market, being Great Britain.”

The backstop would keep Northern Ireland aligned with the rest of the EU on trade regulations to prevent the imposition of a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

Any divergence in the rules between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK could lead to internal boundaries equivalent to a border in the Irish Sea, backstop critics fear.

The backstop is a major plank of the Irish Government’s strategy and would only be implemented if a better solution was not found during transition negotiations on long-term arrangements after an orderly Brexit.

The DUP said its recent discussions with the Government had been good.

It added: “However, given the fact that the necessary changes we seek to the backstop have not been secured between the Government and the European Union, and the remaining and ongoing strategic risk that Northern Ireland would be trapped in backstop arrangements at the end of the implementation period, we will not be supporting the Government if they table a fresh meaningful vote.”

The party said the terms of departure from the EU should ensure the integrity of the UK.

“In our view the current Withdrawal Agreement does not do so and the backstop, which we warned this Government against from its first inception, poses an unacceptable threat to the integrity of the United Kingdom and will inevitably limit the United Kingdom’s ability to negotiate on the type of future relationship with the EU.”

Asked about the pressure on the DUP to back the deal, Arlene Foster told Sky News it was not a case of “rescuing” Brexit.

“We very much want to see Brexit happening, we believe in Brexit, we believe in the opportunities that are there post-Brexit.

“We wish we were able to spend more time talking about the global opportunities that we believe are there for the nation post-Brexit.

“But instead we have become bogged down in a process, but that process has a Withdrawal Agreement with a backstop that will cause damage to the UK, and for us that is the critical point.”

She pinned the blame on Mrs May, because the premier agreed to the backstop with the EU in December 2017.

The DUP leader added: “The most important issue for me, for the Democratic Unionist Party, for our 10 MPs, is the preservation of the union.”

The party’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds, replying to a journalist asking if they might abstain on Mrs May’s deal, said: “The DUP do not abstain on the Union.”

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