DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds calls on May to ‘bin the backstop’
Dodds says DUP ‘will be tried and tested like never before’ over Brexit in coming days
Mr Dodds said that in the coming days and weeks the DUP “will be tried and tested like never before” over Brexit as the party continued to insist it would not accept Mrs May’s draft withdrawal agreement.
“It will require the collective will not just of this party but of all who value and cherish our precious union to stand firm in the face of the inevitable onslaught,” he said.
Mr Dodds said the choice over the draft deal was “to be a free independent trading nation leaving the EU as one United Kingdom or to be locked into an EU straitjacket, divided and diminished”.
“The published withdrawal agreement portrays a pitiful and pathetic place for the United Kingdom,” he added.
“Hundreds of pages are devoted to a backstop which will bind the United Kingdom into taking the rules of the EU with no right to leave and no end date,” he said.
Mr Dodds said that those who supported the backstop must consider “the effect of the trade barriers and growing divergence that would inevitably emerge - some immediately, most in future years - between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK”.
Mr Dodds spoke in favour of the DUP’s confidence and supply arrangement whereby the party’s 10 MPs vote to keep the Conservative government in power. He said the £1 billion cost of the deal and the additional £500 million in extra spending power was being delivered for the benefit of the people of Northern Ireland.
But he again indicated that there would be implications for that agreement if the British government pressed ahead with the withdrawal agreement. And in a barb at the UK prime minister he repeated that the deal was with the Conservative party and not with Mrs May.
“Commitments freely entered into must be delivered and if they are not, then clearly, as we have shown, there are consequences,” he said.
Mr Dodds said the DUP wanted a deal with the EU but “not a deal at any price”.
“Prime minister - bin the backstop,” he added. “Rather than waste any more time putting forward false choices we need the government to get on with securing a better deal.”
Mr Dodds described Arlene Foster as a leader who stood by her “red lines” and promises. He warned against politicians using Brexit as a “political football” to weaken the North’s union with Britain.
In an apparent reference to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar he referred to “those in other jurisdictions trying to play up their republican credentials in advance of a forthcoming general election”.
“By their actions they are doing more to advance the possibility of a so-called no deal Brexit than anyone,” said Mr Dodds.
The party’s MEP, Diane Dodds said the withdrawal agreement “handcuffed the United Kingdom to the European Union with no escape route”.
“We will not accept any Brexit deal that divides Northern Ireland and Great Britain - either economically or constitutionally,” she said.
“We understand that the Border is an evocative subject but it requires more than provocative solutions. Let’s be clear to Michel Barnier and Leo Varadkar we will not support a legally binding backstop arrangement that is not necessary and will damage our economic wellbeing,” she added.
Ms Dodds said there was no need for a hard Border even with a withdrawal agreement that would be acceptable to the DUP. She was dismissive of arguments that it would lead to border checks similar to those in place during the Troubles.
“The so-called borders of the past were there to stop Semtex, not milk powder,” she said.
Looking forward to Brexit she quoted Seamus Heaney.
“We must believe a further shore is reachable from here,” she said.
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson, when speaking about the centenary of the end of first World War, paid tribute to Enda Kenny, Leo Varadkar and the Government for helping create a “new spirit of remembrance” in the Republic.
He complained that the “men and women who put on a uniform to protect our entire community from the evils of terrorism are now being targeted for prosecution whilst the cowards whose cruel violence caused so much loss and destruction in this United Kingdom walk free”.