DUP will ‘work to defeat Brexit deal’, says Sammy Wilson

Theresa May will travel to Brussels for talks with Jean-Claude Juncker

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said that his party will vote against the proposed Brexit agreement as they feel that it will remove Northern Ireland from the UK in the long-term. Video: Sky News

 

The DUP has continued its hard rhetoric against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, with spokesman Sammy Wilson saying that their efforts were “directed to defeat this deal and force a rethink”.

Speaking on Sky News, the MP said the deal will remove Northern Ireland from the UK in the long term, and confirmed that Monday night’s vote was sending a political message.

The party joined with Labour to cut the government’s majority to just five in a Commons vote on the budget.

They also abstained on a series of other amendments to the finance Bill on Monday night in a move intended to send a “political message” to Mrs May.

Their actions appeared to call into question the future of the “confidence-and-supply” arrangement by which the DUP props up Mrs May’s minority Conservative government.

Under the terms of the deal, agreed after Mrs May lost her Commons majority in last year’s general election, the Northern Ireland party is supposed to back the government on budget matters and on confidence votes.

‘Displeasure’

But DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said Mrs May’s deal with Brussels breached a “fundamental” assurance that Northern Ireland would not be separated constitutionally or economically from the rest of the UK.

“We had to do something to show our displeasure,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight.

“She has broken all of those promises – to the people of the United Kingdom, to her own party and to the people of Northern Ireland.”

The EU and UK reached a deal last Tuesday on a draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, including a mechanism to guarantee that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland.

The agreement, which runs to hundreds of pages, includes a UK-wide customs backstop with provisions for extra alignment with EU rules in Northern Ireland, although the deal has been met with opposition from the DUP, Labour and members of her own party, who are hoping to force a no-confidence motion in her leadership.

Brussels

Mrs May will travel to Brussels on Wednesday for Brexit talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Downing Street said the meeting was part of the “ongoing negotiations over the future framework” agreement with the EU.

It is understood the talks are set to focus on future long-term relations between the UK and EU, rather than on the withdrawal deal that Mrs May unveiled last week.

EU states are expected to finalise their work on a political declaration on the bloc’s future ties with Britain after Brexit. National envoys are due to meet the commission’s negotiators on Tuesday evening to discuss a text.

Mrs May has insisted her draft deal puts Northern Ireland in a “fantastic position” in an opinion piece published in the Belfast Telegraph. The prime minister claimed the region’s constitutional status within the UK had been guaranteed in the agreement.

“The challenge of Brexit has always been to continue our deep trading links and security co-operation with the EU in our new relationship, whilst freeing us to take advantage of the opportunities, such as an independent trade policy,” she wrote.

“This deal strikes that balance, and puts Northern Ireland is a fantastic position for the future.

While the DUP and other unionists remain opposed to the deal, Mrs May highlighted the business and agricultural organisations in Northern Ireland that have voiced support, including the CBI, Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors, Chamber of Commerce and Ulster Farmers’ Union.

Cabinet

Meanwhile, prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg warned the Conservatives would be stuck with Mrs May as leader for the next general election unless they moved to get rid of her now.

Amid signs the attempt by Brexiteers to force a vote of confidence in the prime minister had stalled, Mr Rees-Mogg acknowledged they were struggling to get the support they needed.

But the leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) insisted there was little enthusiasm among Tory MPs for Mrs May to take them into the next election, due in 2022.

“I think it is now or the prime minister will lead the Conservatives into the next election,” he told reporters at a Westminster news conference. “You find MPs privately who will say to you they think that is a really good idea in any number and I would be quite surprised.”

Members of the Conservative European Research Group were last week confidently predicting they would get the 48 letters of no confidence needed to trigger a vote in her leadership.

However, there has been no announcement from the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, they have reached that tally while the number of MPs who have publicly declared they submitted letters remains in the 20s.– PA

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