DUP denies shift in stance on withdrawal agreement vote

Spokesman confirms party will be voting against May’s Brexit deal in Commons

DUP has dismissed speculation that leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds were changing stance on Brexit vote. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

The DUP moved to dismiss early Friday morning speculation that leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds may be about to make a major statement over their Brexit stance.

A tweet by unionist commentator Alex Kane that Ms Foster and Mr Dodds could be making an important announcement between 2pm and 4pm prompted some conjecture the DUP may be about to shift gear on its opposition to the withdrawal agreement.

Such speculation was fuelled by the notion that DUP politicians are past masters at “up-to-the wire” negotiations and that they may have wrested some concession or amendment to the withdrawal agreement that would allow the party to vote for Theresa May’s Brexit deal this afternoon.

However, a DUP spokesman was adamant this was not the case. There “is nothing” to the speculation, he said on Friday morning.


Neither did he anticipate an eleventh-hour development or move from Downing Street that would persuade the DUP to change its mind.

“I don’t see it, no, I think the vote will go ahead as it is, and we will be voting against,” he said.

Pushed on whether there could be some last-minute development, the spokesman added: “Of course you always do everything up to the wire, but that is our genuine position.

"Unless Michel Barnier decides I want to make treaty level changes to the withdrawal agreement I don't see anything changing."

Regarding any possible move from Europe the spokesman added: "I don't see that happening."

The DUP is still holding to the line the backstop in the withdrawal agreement poses a constitutional threat to Northern Ireland’s union with Britain and that the “union always will come first”.

That position was reinforced by a tweet late on Thursday night from the DUP's Brexit spokesman, Sammy Wilson, stating: "I've never shied away from speaking up for my constituents who voted to leave the EU. They are right, the backstop remains the poison in parliament. The union comes first."

The spokesman said Mr Dodds was likely to make a statement after this afternoon’s withdrawal agreement vote.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times