Sunday 22 September 2019

DUP will vote against Theresa May's Brexit deal over fears it could lead to break-up of UK

  • Breakthrough hope will now hinge on DUP and Tories
  • Theresa May's Brexit deal could lead to the break-up of the UK - DUP warns
  • The Unionist party 'don't fear a general election' - party's chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson
  • Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage says he believes the draft Brexit plan is 'the worst deal in history'
Theresa May, pictured in Northern Ireland with DUP leader Arlene Foster (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)
Theresa May, pictured in Northern Ireland with DUP leader Arlene Foster (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)
Prime Minister Theresa May (left) and Arlene Foster (Clodagh Kilcoyne/AP)
DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Kevin Doyle, Kate Holton and James Davey

Theresa May's proposed Brexit deal has the potential to break up the United Kingdom because it will treat Northern Ireland differently, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson has said.

One of the 10 MPs who props up May's government, the party's chief whip Donaldson added that he would not fear a new national election if a vote against May's Brexit deal in parliament forces the country into another general vote.

"From what we have seen and heard we do not believe this deal is the best deal," Donaldson said. "This deal has the potential to lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom and that is not something we can support."

Jeffrey Donaldson warned the deal would in the "long term" leave Northern Ireland closely aligned with the EU and could increase support for Scottish independence, saying "this is not the right Brexit".

He continued: "It's not about who is prime minister, it's not about who governs the country, it's about the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK, that is fundamental for us.

"And it is not just us, the DUP does not stand alone on this, we have many friends within the Conservative Party and indeed in some other parties, who believe this deal has the potential to lead to the break-up of the UK.

"That is not something we can support."

Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, told Sky News: "It is worrying times, there's no doubt about that.

"What we'll be looking at is the text, hopefully we'll actually get to see the text so that we can make our own judgment on that.

"The Prime Minister is very clear about where we stand on all of this. As you know we've written to her, she's very clear that we cannot be separated from the rest of the UK, either in terms of customs or indeed in terms of regulatory alignment either."

Mrs Foster went on: "Regulatory alignment would mean that we would diverge from the rest of the UK, we would stay in the single market, whereas the rest of the United Kingdom would not.

"We would have a democratic deficit insofar as we would be taking rules from the European Union and would have no way in influencing those rules.

"It's a question of whether we're separating the union - whether we are dealing with the United Kingdom in a way that leaves us adrift in the future.

"As the leader of unionism in Northern Ireland I'm not about to agree to that."

Remain-supporting Tory MP Anna Soubry told Today that "the best deal we have with the EU is the deal we currently have with the EU".

She said that a customs union had to go together with membership of the single market and its regulatory framework, saying "they have to be together".

She said: "If you speak... to British business they will tell you a customs union is important, but so is the regulatory alignment as well. That is what I need to see."

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage said he believed the draft Brexit plan is "the worst deal in history".

He told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "We're giving away in excess of £40 billion in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union's rule book, continuing free movement of people, continuing with a foreign court having a say over our own country. Nothing has been achieved other than giving away a huge sum of money."

He described Theresa May as "not just the worst prime minister I've ever seen but perhaps the most dishonest one as well".

He added: "Get rid of her. Let's get somebody else, let's come back to the EU and say 'look, let's have a simple free trade deal or we are leaving on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms'. And do you know what? They'll bite our arms off."

Asked what he thinks will happen next, he said: "I believe that the Cabinet will collapse, I believe that Parliament will collapse. I think we have a career political class who will put their own reselection within their parties above the interests of the nation and our democratic system."

Meanwhile, in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Varadkar said the language around the customs arrangement was not important so long as the Irish objectives were achieved.

"Whether it is a double backstop, a backstop to a backstop or a hybrid backstop is not the point. The point is having a legally binding guarantee that a hard Border would not emerge between Northern Ireland and Ireland," he said.

Defending his acceptance of a review mechanism, Mr Varadkar noted that the Good Friday Agreement has one.

"Part of the understanding behind the Good Friday Agreement was that if one wanted it to be long-standing and enduring, it made sense to build into it review mechanisms.

"If we are going to have an agreement between the UK and the EU, one has to be willing to be generous on occasion and give them something, so long as one maintains one's objectives and outcomes," he said.

A string of diplomatic meetings are now being lined up to take place if Mrs May survives her cabinet meeting at 2pm today.

A meeting of the Irish Cabinet has been called for 9.30am "to consider developments".

Additional reporting: Reuters and PA

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