DUP hardens stance on May’s proposed Brexit deal

‘It is time to work for a better deal which does not undermine UK integrity,’ says Dodds

Nigel Dodds: “The choice is between this very bad deal and the right deal.” Photographs: The Irish Times

Nigel Dodds: “The choice is between this very bad deal and the right deal.” Photographs: The Irish Times

 

It is time to work for a better Brexit deal which does not undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said

“I understand why some people fear a no-deal scenario. But the choice is between this very bad deal and the right deal,” said Mr Dodds, whose party props up British prime minister Theresa May’s Tory government.

“With MPs on all sides of the House pointing to the dangers for the union of the withdrawal agreement, it is clear that it is time to work for a better deal which does not undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom.”

The remarks would appear to be a reminder to Mrs May that unless the proposed deal is altered then the DUP will reconsider their support for the Tory administration.

A hardening DUP stance comes as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn declined to support calls for a second referendum. He insisted it is an option that can only be considered in the long term.

The Labour leader also said that if there was another referendum, he did not know how he would vote.

His comments will offer little comfort to growing numbers of Labour MPs who are calling for a so-called people’s vote.

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Meanwhile, away from the fraught politics of Westminster owners of storage facilities say demand has reached “fever pitch” since last week’s withdrawal deal chaos. The UK is running out of food warehouse space as no-deal Brexit fears mount, they say.

Retailers and manufacturers are stockpiling amid growing fears that no deal will be the consequence of political gridlock. Frozen and chilled food warehouses, storing everything from garden peas to half-cooked supermarket bread and cold-store potatoes, are fully booked for the next six months, with customers being turned away, said industry representatives.

“I started getting inquiries two to three months ago, but they reached fever pitch in the last 48 hours,” said Malcolm Johnstone, owner of Associated Cold Stores & Transport after the tumult in Westminster last week. “There has been a sea change since Wednesday.”

He has capacity for 80,000 pallets in cold storage up and down the country and says food manufacturers and suppliers are desperate to get their stockpiling plans secured.

The bookings are not just for frozen foods such as peas and pizzas but food manufacturers such as crisp-makers who need a guaranteed supply of potatoes, normally put in cold storage.

Overseas suppliers are also rushing for stores in the UK.

“I had a call the other week from a man from a Danish butter company who wanted to store 11,000 pallets of butter in the UK. We had to turn him away,” said Mr Johnstone.

“Normally butter would dribble into the UK food chain to meet demand. But these people are worried the supply chain will be interrupted and want stocks in the market before March 29th,” he said.

Fully reserved

Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said retailers were pressing ahead with contingency planning because it was prudent to do so.

“All the arithmetic seems to suggest that it will be impossible for the prime minister to get her deal through. So retailers and food manufacturers are continuing with contingency plans,” he said.

Normally temperature-controlled warehouses are at their quietest in the months between Christmas and Easter. But the fear of no-deal Brexit means they are now fully reserved in advance from January to April and beyond, explained the Food Storage and Distribution Federation, which represents 350 warehouse owners and 75 per cent of all commercially available frozen and chilled food warehouses in the country.

The Brexit warehouse shortage emerged as companies such as Premier Foods, which owns Bisto, Oxo and Mr Kipling and Ornua, the Irish company behind Kerrygold and many cheddar cheese brands, have announced plans for stockpiling. – Reuters/Guardian