DUP dismisses UK government’s ‘half-cooked ideas’ on Border

Brexiteer MP Sammy Wilson says reported David Davis proposals were ‘at best contradictory’

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said  none of the mooted proposals had been discussed with his party. File image: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said none of the mooted proposals had been discussed with his party. File image: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

 

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has urged the British Conservative Party to stop coming up with “half-cooked ideas” on dealing with the Border and to provide clarity on its Brexit plan.

Britain’s Brexit secretary David Davis was reported on Thursday to be creating a plan that would give Northern Ireland joint UK and European Union status so it could trade freely with both, as well as a buffer zone to eliminate the need for border checkpoints with Ireland.

Mr Davis is drawing a proposed 16km-wide trade buffer zone along the Border that would be in effect for local traders, such as dairy farmers, after Britain leaves the bloc, The Sun newspaper reported.

A 10-mile wide “special economic zone” would be created along the 310-mile border, within which local traders could operate under the Republic’s trade rules.

The DUP, which props up British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government at Westminster, has made clear that it does not want Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of the UK.

The party’s East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson said on Friday that none of the mooted proposals had been discussed with his party. He described them as “at best contradictory”.

He said: “First of all, to suggest that Northern Ireland be tied to both EU and UK regulations, when one of the objectives of leaving the single market is to allow the UK to set its own regulations, raises the question which regulations apply to Northern Ireland if and when the UK and the EU regulations diverge?

“Secondly, who will make the judgement as to which regulations should apply? Will it be the EU or the UK Government? Will it be the UK courts or the European Court of Justice?”

Mr Wilson said the purpose of the border buffer zone “appears to be even less clear”. He asked what would happen to trade from outside the buffer zone when it crossed into the zone and if checks would have to be carried out there.

“These convoluted arrangements only arise because of the Government’s failure to make it clear to the EU that regardless of [chief EU negotiator Michel] Barnier and EU negotiators’ attempts to keep us in the customs union and the single market, we are leaving.”

Mr Wilson said the British Government must make it clear that all of the borders that would exist as a consequence of Britain leaving the EU “whether that is between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, the Irish Republic and Great Britain, or Great Britain and Europe all present the same problems”.

He concluded: “Instead of moving from one set of half-cooked ideas to the other it is now time for the Government to put down its foot and make it clear to EU negotiators that the Prime Minister stands by her commitment that no deal is better than a bad deal and if they want to avoid the consequences then they need to stop dismissing the perfectly feasible ideas that were put forward in August of last year.”

Sinn Féin accused Mr Davis of trying to “hide a hard border in a buffer zone”.

MEP Martina Anderson said: “Once again this shows the lack of knowledge of border areas and the concerns they face - David Davis obviously didn’t learn much on his flying visits.”

Mr Davis’s Department for Exiting the EU did not deny that the proposal was under consideration.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear that we cannot and will not accept a customs border down the Irish Sea, and that we will preserve the integrity of the UK’s common market.” - Additional reporting PA