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DUP remain confident a Brexit deal can still be achieved

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The DUP has said it remains confident a Brexit deal can be achieved, despite the high profile resignation of cabinet minister Amber Rudd.

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Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP, the DUP's chief whip, made the comments at the Kennedy Summer School in Co Wexford.

He added that he didn't believe Brexit would threaten the Good Friday Agreement.

In a stinging attack on the government, Ms Rudd quit her role as Work and Pensions Secretary saying she did not believe the Government was even trying to get a deal.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Sir Jeffrey said he "remained hopeful that pragmatism will prevail".

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann, however, has questioned what information the DUP has that leads it to believe it knows more about the Brexit preparations than Ms Rudd.

Sir Jeffrey said: "I believe that with several weeks to go until October 31 there is time to get a deal.

"The EU have said they're open to such proposals. The Government has been working on said proposals to put forward."

On Ms Rudd's resignation, he said: "I think that it takes time to work up a set of proposals and I think that clearly there is frustration among some members of the Conservative Party that things may not be happening as quickly as they would like. But I think the Prime Minister is right to take his time and get the proposals he is comfortable with before he puts them forward to Brussels."

Speaking at the Kennedy school in New Ross, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the DUP would be "kicking itself" for rejecting the backstop, as any deal was likely to require a border down the Irish Sea.

"If Colum Eastwood thinks having two borders is a solution then I think that is a totally unrealistic approach," Sir Jeffrey replied.

"It would be extremely damaging to the Northern Ireland economy to have a trade barrier with our biggest market in Great Britain.

"The Prime Minister is very clear that he does not want a trade border in the United Kingdom."

Last week, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was a "germ of a solution" to the border issue in a quote from late DUP leader Ian Paisley, who once said people in Northern Ireland were British "but the cows are Irish".

"We recognise that a lot of agri-food business is done across the border and clearly we want farmers and food businesses to continue to thrive," Sir Jeffrey said.

"So we're prepared to look at pragmatic solutions so long as they don't result in a trade barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain."

Mr Swann said Sir Jeffrey should reveal what he knows.

"If Sir Jeffrey is privy to information that Amber Rudd wasn't as a Government Minister, then he needs to let Northern Ireland businesses and farmers know," he said.

"The least he should do is explain why he believes we will get a deal when Amber Rudd is saying the opposite.

"What does he know that Amber Rudd didn't?

"Northern Ireland needs a deal, the rest of the UK needs a deal and so does the EU.

"But to get a deal there needs to be genuine engagement, and if what Amber Rudd is saying is truly reflective of what is happening in the inner echelons of the Johnson Government, then it should give great concern to everyone who has the best interests of the United Kingdom at heart."

He added: "Blindly charging towards a no-deal Brexit without detailed thought being given to the impact it will have on the constituent parts of the UK could have huge implications for the Union."

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