Protection of union the only criteria for DUP on Brexit deal

DUP 'willing to support a sensible Brexit deal' but 'not at any price', says Dodds

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the Brexit referendum result ‘was not for a Great Britain Brexit, it was for a United Kingdom Brexit.’ Photograph: Getty

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the Brexit referendum result ‘was not for a Great Britain Brexit, it was for a United Kingdom Brexit.’ Photograph: Getty

 

The protection of the union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will be the only criteria by which the DUP will consider any amendment to the Brexit withdrawal agreement bill, the party’s deputy leader has said.

Speaking at the party’s annual conference in Belfast on Saturday, Nigel Dodds said he gave “clear notice” that the DUP would “look at every proposal, every line of legislation and every amendment that is tabled through one prism and one prism only.

“How does this best protect the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,” he asked. “That will be the test.”

Mr Dodds also called on the British prime minister Boris Johnson to “stick to your word” that there would be no border in the Irish Sea.

Referring to the speech made by Mr Johnson, then MP for Uxbridge, at the DUP conference last year, the DUP deputy leader quoted his commitment “that no British Conservative government could or should sign up to any such arrangement.”

“Today,” Mr Dodds told the conference, “we stick by our principles.”

He affirmed again the DUP’s opposition to the withdrawal agreement bill, referring to it as “the worst of all worlds”, and said unionism “cannot accept a customs border in the Irish Sea.”

He began his speech with an apology, he said. “The Brexit Secretary had asked for a speaking slot this year to outline the [British] government’s agreement with the European Union, but given his recent inability to recall what he actually negotiated, we politely declined.”

Amid laughter from the approximately 350 delegates, he continued, saying that in the last 11 months the party had been “tried and tested like never before.”

He stressed the result of the Brexit Referendum “was not for a Great Britain Brexit, it was for a United Kingdom Brexit,” and added that “neither he [the prime minister] nor the Brexit Secretary seems to know what on earth they negotiated.”

The British government, he was sure, “has taken note of its last two defeats in the House of Commons on Brexit.

“It has been the votes of this party, the ten MPs of the DUP, that has been the difference between the prime minister being able to hold his meaningful vote and being able to timetable his withdrawal agreement.”

The DUP, he said, “were ready and willing to support a sensible Brexit deal for the whole of the United Kingdom. But not at any price.

“The roadmap to a majority in the House of Commons is clear,” he said. “The quest to deliver Brexit can be complete with our votes.”