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DUP's Donaldson demands May publish Brexit legal advice on Irish border backstop

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP has joined the growing chorus of calls for the Prime Minister to publish legal advice on Brexit and the Irish border.

At the weekend former Brexit Secretary David Davis said the Prime Minister must publish the Attorney General's advice on Brexit in order to allow politicians and the public to make a judgment on the deal and to protect her own reputation. And Environment Secretary Michael Gove has said the advice must be made available to the Cabinet.

DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson has now demanded Theresa May publish the advice.

Denying he did not trust the Government, Sir Jeffrey told the BBC: "I think it's in the public interest we understand fully what's happening here.

"It's because it affects the whole UK therefore it shouldn't just be the DUP that sees this advice, or the Government.

"If the House of Commons is going to have a meaningful vote on a deal that includes, and upon which this legal advice is very, very important, then I think people are entitled to know what that advice is."

The Irish border issue has been put front and centre in a way it really does not need to be.

He pointed the finger of blame for a lack of progress in the exit talks between the UK and the EU at the administrations in Brussels and Dublin. He said a no-deal scenario would ultimately hurt the Republic's economy.

"It is clear from rhetoric coming from both Brussels and Dublin that they are so far opposing what the Prime Minister has suggested in terms of pragmatic arrangements to deal with the Irish border."

He said he and his party wanted a deal that worked for the "whole of the UK" but the Irish border issues was being used to "frustrate Brexit and inhibit the UK's ability to do trade deals in the future".

"The Irish Government is being used by the EU as a bargaining chip. The Irish border issue has been put front and centre in a way it really does not need to be. We are very clear about that and that's why we think the Irish Government has to press upon Brussels the need for greater pragmatism on this. Because it is not in the interests of either the Irish Republic or Northern Ireland or the UK or the European Union that we end up with no deal."

He said an Irish Sea border would be "very harmful" to the Northern Ireland economy given the volumes of trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Sir Jeffrey said he could agree to a deal which would keep the whole of the UK within a customs union with the EU.

He added: "We certainly don't want a no-deal outcome. I think we are right to warn Dublin that if they continue to frustrate, if they continue to be the road block to Brexit then there are serious consequences for their economy if we end up with a no deal scenario.

"We have the EU effectively creating a hard border because it will be they who will take that initiative to protect the single market. Where we have situations that mean where Dublin is paying more, a net contributor to the EU and their exports to the UK have tariffs imposed upon them. Is that what Dublin wants?

"I think we are right to warn the Irish Government that continuing to be a road block to the UK in getting a deal that would be fair to everyone doesn't make sense for them."

In a leaked outline plan of how the coming weeks may unfold in the run up to a possible announcement of a deal, the Prime Minister has urged MPs to set aside their own interests and act in the interest of the country. That leaked plan, however, was rubbished by Number 10.

"We do want to put the country first," Sir Jeffrey added.

"But the country means serving the interests of everyone. It means serving the interests of people in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. That is why we are holding out against the idea Northern Ireland would be annexed from the rest of Britain. That is not just a political issue, it is an economic issue.

"It is by far out biggest market... we must get this right."

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