Leaders in business and farming urge DUP to accept deal
The DUP is facing mounting calls from businesses in Northern Ireland to support Theresa May's draft withdrawal agreement.
In a joint statement issued last night, four influential lobby groups described Mrs May's proposed agreement as a "welcome step forward".
The Confederation of British Industry NI, Federation of Small Businesses NI, Institute of Directors NI and NI Chamber of Commerce said the deal "provides some much needed clarity that local businesses have been calling for".
"It provides a platform to move onto the critical next stage and allows work to begin on the formulation of a comprehensive future trade deal," it said.
"Crucially, the provision for an extended transition period offers our members the flexibility and time to adjust to a new relationship with the EU which they must be allowed to do in as smooth and orderly a manner as possible."
Their statement was issued several hours after the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) claimed a no-deal Brexit would be "absolutely disastrous".
The UFU, which represents thousands of farmers, many of whom would traditionally vote DUP, called on the party to vote for the text.
Chief executive Wesley Aston said: "No deal for Northern Ireland agri-food and farming in particular would be absolutely disastrous and we have made that patently clear."
However, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said he did not believe it was the best deal for Northern Ireland.
"We disagree with their conclusion," he said. "We believe that a border in the Irish Sea is not in the interests of our farmers or our business owners, because Great Britain is by far our biggest and best market."