Sunday 20 October 2019

'It cannot work' - DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds shoots down Boris Johnson's plan to break Brexit deadlock

Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds. Photo: Getty Images
Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds. Photo: Getty Images

Kate Holton

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's proposed solution to break the Brexit deadlock cannot work because Northern Ireland must remain in a full UK customs union, the deputy leader of the political party said on Saturday.

Italian newspaper Repubblica quoted Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, as saying that Johnson knew their position. "No, it cannot work," Dodds said, "because Northern Ireland has to remain fully part of the UK customs union".

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The DUP, which supports Johnson's Conservatives in the Westminster parliament, will play a key role in deciding whether Britain can agree a new withdrawal agreement with the European Union before the deadline of October 31.

According to EU diplomats, Johnson has proposed keeping Northern Ireland in a UK customs union and some form of EU customs partnership. This means the province would face customs and regulatory checks on goods moving between Northern Ireland and Britain.

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That is designed to prevent the return of customs checks on the island of Ireland, at the border between the British province and EU-member Ireland.

Negotiators for Britain and the EU have embarked on intense talks to see if they can make the proposal work, and while DUP leader Arlene Foster gave a guarded welcome to the plan on Friday, deputy leader Nigel Dodds sounded more downbeat.

DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA
DUP leader Arlene Foster. Photo: PA

Dodds is the DUP's leader in the Westminster parliament and his views have proved influential with some members of Johnson's own party who want a cleaner break with Brussels. Opposition from the DUP led to parliament rejecting three times a previous Brexit deal agreed by Johnson predecessor Theresa May.

"We'll wait and see," Dodds said. "There is a lot of stuff coming from Brussels, pushed by the Europeans in the last hours, but one thing is sure: Northern Ireland must remain fully part of the UK customs union. And Boris Johnson knows it very well."

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A spokesman for the DUP said Dodds' comments were consistent with Foster's statement on Friday, when the party said the UK must leave the EU as one nation and "in so doing that no barriers to trade are erected within the UK".


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