Thursday 17 October 2019

No Brexit deal is better than a bad deal, says DUP's Dodds

CONFERENCE: Dodds will back May if backstop is dropped. Picture: PA
CONFERENCE: Dodds will back May if backstop is dropped. Picture: PA

Hannah Strange

No Brexit deal is better than a bad deal, a leading Democratic Unionist MP has told his party conference.

Nigel Dodds was speaking just days after MPs voted down British Prime Minister Theresa May's approach to the Brexit talks.

MPs voted by 303 to 258 against a motion endorsing the British government's negotiating strategy.

With just over 40 days to go until the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union, the DUP deputy leader said Mrs May will have their support if "necessary changes" are made to the backstop.

He told his party's spring conference in Omagh, Co Tyrone, that they want a Brexit deal, "but we are very clear that a no-deal is better than a bad deal.

"As we leave the EU - for us the guiding star is the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland," he said.

"We will do nothing to undermine that Union. The only way to a majority in the House of Commons is with DUP votes. With necessary changes to the backstop, the Prime Minister will have our support."

In her speech to the conference, Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster said her party will say no when the deal is "not suitable", but will also "not be afraid to yes when the deal is right". "We will measure any new draft Withdrawal Agreement against our own tests of both protecting the Union and respecting the referendum result," she said.

Mrs Foster added: "We must work for a sensible deal which works for every part of the United Kingdom."

Meanwhile, a British Cabinet minister has warned that crashing out of the European Union without a deal would have a "very adverse effect" on the UK's economy, security and union with Northern Ireland.

Justice Secretary David Gauke suggested he would back an extension to Article 50 if a deal between the UK and EU was not reached, and said he expected the Government to act "responsibly" if the current deadlock prevailed.

And the Justice Secretary told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he hoped it would be made clear in the next 10 days that the UK is in a position to leave with a deal on March 29.

But he said: "If not, then we will have to, in my view, act responsibly and make sure that this country, the economy is protected, our security is protected and the integrity of the Union is protected.

"I have very grave concerns about the consequences of leaving without a deal. I think the consequences would not be in the national interest."

Earlier, Mrs Foster also warned Sinn Fein that the restoration of devolution is "no game".

She blamed Sinn Fein for the continued lack of self-government in Northern Ireland more than two years after the powersharing institutions collapsed in January 2017.

This came less than 24 hours after the five local parties met with the British and Irish governments to discuss the resumption of political talks to revive Stormont.

There has not been a functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland since a breakdown in relations between the DUP and Sinn Fein over a botched green energy scheme.

Sunday Independent

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