Unionists unimpressed with EU-UK political declaration

DUP says ‘aspirational’ document drafted to mitigate the damage of withdrawal deal

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson. File photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson. File photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

 

The DUP and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) have reacted sceptically to the political declaration agreed between the UK and the European Union on how their future relations will operate.

The DUP did not agree with prime minister Theresa May’s description of the declaration as being “right for the whole of the UK”. The party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said it was a “non-binding aspirational agreement of convenience” whereas the “withdrawal agreement is a legally binding text which will tie the UK for years to come”.

Mr Wilson said the document was drafted to help Mrs May “rather than mitigate the very damaging and dangerous” draft Brexit deal.

Repeating his call for the British government to negotiate a better withdrawal agreement, Mr Wilson said the DUP wanted a deal “which respects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom”.

The UUP leader Robin Swann said the political declaration did little to dispel anxieties about the Brexit deal. “The bottom line is that the draft political declaration is just that. The draft withdrawal agreement backstop has legal standing,” he said.

Ambiguity

“There is still a lot of ambiguity in this text which will do little to allay concerns that have been raised since the publication of the draft withdrawal agreement.”

The SDLP Brexit spokeswoman Claire Hanna said that “after many months in limbo” it was encouraging to see that a deal between the UK and EU was progressing.

“To be clear, this deal is not perfect but it does provide Northern Ireland with minimum protections if required after March 2019. Of course, the SDLP would prefer to see no Brexit at all and if the opportunity arises for a second referendum we will actively support that,” she said.

“Nonetheless, we are determined that the backstop be banked for any scenario where it is required.”

The Alliance Brexit spokesman Stephen Farry said his party continued to “maintain there is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit, and our preference is parliament puts the withdrawal agreement to a People’s Vote, with Remain an option on the ballot”.

“The draft political declaration was always going to be vague and indeed contradictory. But it is not a formal legal text. This development at least allows the UK and EU to conclude this phase of the Brexit negotiations on Sunday.”