Monday 14 October 2019

'Sufficient progress not made' - DUP deals major blow to Theresa May's Brexit backstop fudge

  • May's deal in peril after Brexiteers give it the thumbs down
  • AG said new deal 'reduces but doesn't remove the risk' that UK could be trapped indefinitely in backstop
Prime Minister Theresa May (left) and Arlene Foster (Clodagh Kilcoyne/AP)
Prime Minister Theresa May (left) and Arlene Foster (Clodagh Kilcoyne/AP)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

DUP leader Arlene Foster has indicated that the party will not support the Theresa May's Brexit deal saying in a statement "that sufficient progress has not been achieved at this time".

It is the third major blow to the British Prime Minister amid the Breixt backstop fudge that is seen as Mrs May's final roll of the dice to save her Brexit deal, and possibly her career.

The Brexit spokesman for Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party Sammy Wilson told Reuters that Mrs May must go back to the EU after she loses the vote on her deal to demand radical change to her Brexit deal.

"We need radical change .... and we need to see some steel in her stance," he said.

Wilson said the DUP decided to vote against May's deal as soon as they read the legal advice by Britain's attorney general, which, he said, showed nothing had changed after Monday's revisions to the deal.

Earlier the British Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the last-minute Brexit agreements "reduce the risk" that the UK could be trapped indefinitely in the backstop.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May and EU European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met last night as the Brexit clock counts down with huge implications for Ireland. Photo: Bloomberg
UK Prime Minister Theresa May and EU European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker met last night as the Brexit clock counts down with huge implications for Ireland. Photo: Bloomberg

That was seen as a significant setback to the Prime Minister's hopes of overturning MPs' 230-vote rejection of her Withdrawal Agreement in the second "meaningful vote" on the deal in the House of Commons on Tuesday evening.

Then the so-called Star Chamber of lawyers convened by the Leave-backing European Research Group found that agreements reached by the Prime Minister in 11th-hour talks in Strasbourg do not deliver the legally-binding changes the Commons has demanded.

Crucially, sitting on the panel alongside six Tory MPs and an independent QC was Nigel Dodds, Westminster leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.

And now the statement by the DUP - tweeted by leader Arlene Foster - will be seen as a hammer blow to any lingering hopes that the vote tonight in the House of Commons could go in Mrs May's favour.

It argued that Mrs May had not achieved sufficient progress in her Brexit negotiations "at this time" but that it was still possible to reach a deal with further talks.

EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has said that Britain will not get a post-Brexit transition period unless the House of Commons ratifies the divorce package.

"Listening to debate in HouseofCommons: there seems to be a dangerous illusion that the UK can benefit from a transition in the absence of the Withdrawal Agreement," he said said on Twitter.

"Let me be clear: the only legal basis for a transition is the WA. No withdrawal agreement means no transition."

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox leaves Downing Street, London, ahead of stating his legal advice over Brexit to MPs in the House of Commons. Photo: Steve Parsons / PA Wire
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox leaves Downing Street, London, ahead of stating his legal advice over Brexit to MPs in the House of Commons. Photo: Steve Parsons / PA Wire

Earlier, Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Mr Cox had confirmed that "no significant changes" had been secured to the Withdrawal Agreement and the Government's strategy was "in tatters".

The advice was issued the morning after Mrs May's dash to Strasbourg to finalise a deal with Jean-Claude Juncker which she said would deliver "legally-binding" reassurances for MPs to ensure the Irish backstop cannot be permanent.

In it, Mr Cox said that documents agreed in Strasbourg "reduce the risk that the United Kingdom could be indefinitely and involuntarily detained" in the backstop by EU bad faith or a failure by Brussels to use its "best endeavours" to negotiate a permanent deal on the future relationship.

But he warned that the question of whether a satisfactory agreement on a future UK/EU relationship can be reached remains "a political judgment".

And he said that "the legal risk remains unchanged" that if no such agreement can be reached due to "intractable differences", the UK would have "no internationally lawful means" of leaving the backstop without EU agreement.

Sir Keir said in a tweet: "Attorney General confirms that there have been no significant changes to the Withdrawal Agreement despite the legal documents that were agreed last night. The Government's strategy is now in tatters."

PA Media

Also in Business