DUP and British government continue to clash over Brexit deal
Northern secretary Karen Bradley rejects Dodds’s view that draft deal threatens union
Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley. Photograph: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Northern secretary Karen Bradley and the DUP are continuing to push opposing interpretations of the UK-EU withdrawal agreement as the battle to win over political, business and public opinion rumbles on in Northern Ireland.
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds insisted that the Brexit deal threatened Northern Ireland’s union with Britain, while Ms Bradley will today repeat to Northern Irish business leaders that the deal is in the UK “national interest”.
“It is clear that it is time to work for a better deal which does not undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom, ” Mr Dodds put in a statement.
However, Ms Bradley rejects this view.
“The agreement preserves the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, upholds the Belfast Agreement and ensures people and businesses that rely on an open border between Northern Ireland and Ireland can continue living their lives and operating as they do now,” she will tell the Confederation of British Industry in Northern Ireland. “The country now faces a choice between this deal – the only workable deal that fulfils the will of the referendum – or back to square one on Brexit.”
Ms Bradley is delivering an address to the confederation as part of her efforts to go over the heads of the unionist parties, who oppose the agreement, to gain business and public support for the deal.
The Northern secretary will take comfort from the fact that various elements of business from sectors such as manufacturing, farming, food and tourism have come out in favour of the agreement, contending that while not perfect it is better than no deal.
“This is a truly decisive moment for Northern Ireland and the whole of the United Kingdom,” Ms Bradley will say. “The government has agreed in principle the terms for a smooth and orderly exit from the EU and the broad terms of our future relationship.
“We are now close to a deal that will deliver in full on the result of the referendum. A deal that will see the UK take back control of our borders, our laws and our money.”
However, the DUP, which has expressed considerable annoyance at business support for the draft agreement, continued to argue that the deal was a threat to the union.
To buttress the DUP’s position Mr Dodds cited the comments on Sunday of the former Brexit British secretary Dominic Raab, who resigned because of his opposition to the deal.
“[Mr Raab] says it takes a very predatory approach to Northern Ireland, that the cabinet was told Northern Ireland will be treated as a third country for regulatory purposes, and that absolutely it threatens the union,” Mr Dodds said. “These are exactly the reasons why Northern Ireland unionism stands united in opposition to this draft withdrawal agreement.”
Mr Dodds said the British Labour leader understood the threat in the agreement. “Even Jeremy Corbyn gets it, although nationalists and republicans here are desperate for him to stop saying it,” he said.
“I understand why some people fear a no-deal scenario. But the choice is between this very bad deal and the right deal.”
He added: “With MPs on all sides of the House [of Commons] pointing to the dangers for the union of the withdrawal agreement, it is clear that it is time to work for a better deal which does not undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom.”