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Brexit chaos as DUP twists the knife over 'betrayal' while Johnson tells EU extension request is 'Parliament's letter, not my letter'

  • Johnson sends unsigned request to EU asking for extension

  • British PM also sends second letter stressing he does not want a delay

  • Arlene Foster feels the proposed new deal 'undermines the integrity of the Union'

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DUP Westminster group leader Nigel Dodds. Picture: AFP via Getty Images

DUP Westminster group leader Nigel Dodds. Picture: AFP via Getty Images

PRU/AFP via Getty Images

DUP Westminster group leader Nigel Dodds. Picture: AFP via Getty Images

The Democratic Unionist Party has exacted revenge for its "betrayal" by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who last night was forced to formally request another Brexit extension from the European Union.

The Northern Ireland party landed the fatal blow that ensured Mr Johnson had no option but to request a delay to Brexit, with DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds turning on the UK Prime Minister.

In an excoriating attack in the House of Commons, Mr Dodds accused Mr Johnson of being "weak" in his negotiations with the EU and of betraying promises made on Brexit related to the Northern Ireland.

Last night Sir Timothy Barrow, the UK Government's envoy to the EU, sent Donald Tusk, the president of the EU Council, what was said to be an unsigned photocopied letter of request for the extension. Mr Johnson then sent a separate letter making clear he does not want a delay and is planning to put his deal before MPs in the House of Commons next week.

He also phoned European leaders last night to declare that the letter "is Parliament's letter, not my letter".

Mr Johnson is reported to have insisted to the EU that he is "not asking" for a "deeply corrosive" delay to Brexit.

Last night European Council President Donald Tusk announced he had received the formal request for an extension to the Brexit deadline. Mr Tusk said he will now begin the process of consulting with EU leaders on how to respond.

After the letter asking for a Brexit delay was sent to the EU, Jeremy Corbyn tweeted: "I told the Prime Minister to obey the law and despite his petulant posturing and bluster he finally has - he's asked for an extension.

"His damaging deal was defeated."

Last night, Mr Johnson called Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and updated him on developments in Westminster.

After Boris Johnson vowed to not seek an extension beyond the scheduled departure date of October 31 - he had said that he would rather "die in a ditch" - he was legally forced to request the extension after the DUP yesterday supported an amendment which denied him a clean vote on the new Withdrawal Agreement, in a move which delays Brexit.

In a day of high drama at the UK House of Commons, which saw Jacob Rees-Mogg and others avail of police escorts, the DUP's 10 MPs - furious at what they regard to be an act of betrayal by Mr Johnson - cast their votes against the prime minister rather than support or abstain on an a so-called insurance policy amendment to avoid no-deal.

The DUP's view is that the proposed new deal between the UK and EU "undermines the integrity of the Union" by placing a border in the Irish Sea, and departs from the principle of consent in the Good Friday Agreement.

 Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said today a short delay to Brexit in order to hold a national election would be better than accepting Mr Johnson's deal.

"I want to leave on the 31 of October, but I'll warn everybody that if this treaty goes through nothing will have changed at all, and I think far better to have a short delay and a general election where we might solve this," Farage told Sky News, adding that Johnson's deal was "rotten" and "not Brexit".

The UK government lost the vote on yesterday's amendment by 322 votes to 306.

Had the DUP supported the Conservative government, the amendment would have been defeated by four votes - and a highly anticipated 'meaningful vote' on the Withdrawal Agreement would then have proceeded.

The UK government then withdrew a planned 'meaningful vote' - but Mr Johnson immediately said he would press on "undaunted", despite a majority of MPs backing a further delay to the process. He said his deal was not dead and he is now expected to bring forward implementation early next week.

The DUP voted in favour of the amendment tabled by former Tory minister Oliver Letwin, which "withholds approval" for Mr Johnson's Brexit deal until legislation implementing it has been passed. In effect, it was an "insurance policy" to ensure that Britain would not crash out of the EU without a deal on October 31 pending legislative scrutiny of the new Withdrawal Agreement.

However, furious House of Commons supporters of Brexit believe the amendment may be a ruse to block and ultimately reverse Brexit.

As developments occurred in the UK last night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the EU and the UK had agreed a Withdrawal Agreement deal on Thursday that "defends Ireland's interests". He added that the UK Commons had voted to "defer a decision" on whether or not to ratify it.

Though the delay may cause annoyance, there is nonetheless an authoritative view that the EU will accede to an extension request.

The UK prime minister may push for a brief technical extension to allow for a 'meaningful vote' on his deal. It remains uncertain that the deal will pass. However, should a longer extension be granted - possibly of up to three months - the possibility exists that MPs will align to attempt to force a second referendum or general election.

Before the vote yesterday Mr Johnson held last-ditch meetings with the DUP, but to no avail. "They are not in a positive place," one UK government source said.

In the subsequent highly charged debate, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds confronted Mr Johnson, saying "weariness" on Brexit was "no excuse for weakness on Brexit and weakness on the Union".

Mr Johnson sought to play down DUP concerns that Northern Ireland had been cut loose by Britain but was met with a shout of "it's a sell out" when he spoke.

Before he left the Commons under police escort, Mr Rees-Mogg suggested that there could now be a 'meaningful vote' on the Withdrawal Agreement on Monday.

However, it is for the speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, to decide whether to allow that motion - and yesterday Mr Bercow gave a strong indication that he would not.

He said: "The apparent purpose of the said motion which ministers are attempting to table is to invalidate or obviate the effect of the decision which the House reached today. And that does seem most curious or irregular."

Full text of Boris Johnson's letter to the EU:

"Dear Mr President,

The UK Parliament has passed the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act 2019. Its provisions now require Her Majesty’s Government to seek an extension of the period provided under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, including as applied by Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty, currently due to expire at 11 p.m. GMT on 31 October 2019, until 11 p.m. GMT on 31 January 2020.

I am writing therefore to inform the European Council that the United Kingdom is seeking a further extension to the period provided under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, including as applied by Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty. The United Kingdom proposes that this period should end at 11 p.m. GMT on 31 January 2020. If the parties are able to ratify before this date, the Government proposes that the period should be terminated early. Yours sincerely, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland"

Sunday Independent


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DUP leader Arlene Foster (centre) addresses the media, flanked by party deputy leader Nigel Dodds (left), and MP Jeffrey Donaldson. Photo: Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP