Brexit talks focused on legal guarantees ‘not cash’, says DUP

Discussions continuing with British government ahead of third vote on exit deal

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader Nigel Dodds leaves after speaking to the media outside the cabinet office in London on Friday. Photograph: Reuters/Henry Nicholls

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader Nigel Dodds leaves after speaking to the media outside the cabinet office in London on Friday. Photograph: Reuters/Henry Nicholls

 

The DUP has rejected suggestions it is seeking a cash incentive from the British government in exchange for supporting it in a third vote on the Brexit withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons next week.

On Saturday, the DUP issued a statement from a spokesperson saying its focus was on ensuring Northern Ireland was treated the same as Britain post-Brexit.

“We are in discussions with the Government to ensure Northern Ireland is not separated out from the rest of the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union.

“Contrary to some reports we are not discussing cash. There are still issues to be addressed in our discussions.”

The Spectator magazine reported on Saturday that the DUP was likely to support prime minister Theresa May in the vote next week after twice rejecting the deal.

The DUP, whose 10 MPs hold the balance of power in parliament, is moving towards backing the agreement after receiving a promise that the government would put into law a requirement that there be no divergence between Northern Ireland and Britain, it was claimed.

A cabinet minister involved in the talks with the DUP told the Spectator the chances of the DUP backing the government’s deal were around 60 percent.

Meanwhile, taoiseach Leo Varadkar discussed Brexit with DUP leader Arlene Foster during a meeting in Washington DC.

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The Taoiseach said the pair shared their perspectives on Brexit adding that the DUP wanted to avoid a no-deal scenario.

Speaking on his first day in Chicago for the Taoiseach’s second leg of the St Patrick’s tour, Mr Varadkar said: “I got to hear her (Mrs Foster) perspective and she heard mine and I certainly had the sense that the DUP would like the UK to leave the EU with a deal.

“They don’t want a no-deal either so at the moment they’re in discussions with the British government about how they might approach the next vote but they’re discussions I am not party to.”

Mr Varadkar confirmed he would hold further Brexit discussions with European Council president Donald Tusk when he visits Dublin on Tuesday.

He added: “I’ve always said that what I would like to avoid is a rolling extension, where there is an extension every few months, that would just add to uncertainty and wouldn’t solve the problem.

“There seems to be two emerging possibilities, one would be the ratification of the withdrawal agreement by Westminster followed by a short extension into the summer which would allow them time to pass the necessary legislation or potentially a much longer extension of up to two years and the purpose of that would be to allow other options to be considered, for example participation in customs union.”

‘Good discussions’

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said talks with the British government would continue through the weekend after “good discussions” on Friday.

“We want to get a deal. We’ve always been in that frame of mind. We don’t want to leave without a deal but a lot will depend in terms of what the government is able to do in terms of providing the guarantees that are necessary to assuage our concerns,” he said.

Much of the DUP’s focus in the negotiations has been on paragraph 50 of the December 2017 joint report in which Britain agreed to a backstop to ensure that there could be no hard border in Ireland. It said the United Kingdom would ensure that no new regulatory barriers develop between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK unless the Stormont institutions agreed to them and it guaranteed the North unfettered access to the entire UK market.

“That needs to be addressed and the overall situation of how the UK as a whole, the economic integrity of the internal market utterly protected for NI going forward. What we are doing is continuing to discuss that issue, continuing to discuss how that can actually be provided for, how we can protect the internal market of the United Kingdom,” he said.

Mr Dodds said the fact that Mr Hammond attended the meeting should not be interpreted as evidence that the DUP was seeking cash in return for supporting the deal.

“We’re not discussing cash in these discussions. This is about Brexit and how we can protect the future of the United Kingdom and protect Northern Ireland’s economic and political future,” he said. - Additional reporting Reuters/PA

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