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Jeremy Hunt: 'DUP should be on Brexit negotiating team'

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is one of several Tory leadership hopefuls. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt is one of several Tory leadership hopefuls. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Conservative leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has said he would give the DUP a role on his Brexit negotiating team if he becomes Prime Minister.

The foreign secretary is the latest in a long line of Tories who have put their hat in the ring for the top job since Theresa May announced her plans to resign last week.

While they are in a confidence and supply arrangement with the Government, the DUP has also voted against it in key Brexit votes.

Along with the hard-line eurosceptic European Research Group, Arlene Foster's party have proven major obstacles in getting any Brexit deal through Parliament.

Speak to the BBC's Today programme, Mr Hunt said involving the DUP and the ERG in any future Brexit negotiating team would allow the Government to agree a "common position" to bring to the EU.

"One of the reasons that (the EU) weren't flexible in changing the withdrawal agreement is that they weren't confident that the British government would be able to deliver parliament for any deal that they agreed to," he said.

"We need to have a new negotiating team, in that team there needs to be not just the Government but the Democratic Unionist Party, the ERG, I think you should have someone from Scotland and Wales so that the Union side of these issues are properly thought through.

"One of the issues that we have had in the negotiations is that we haven't been able to carry this broad coalition - the coalition that you are going to need to get a deal through Parliament - because we are in a hung-parliament where no party has a majority."

Since Brexit negotiations began, the DUP have stayed firm in their opposition to the backstop - the "insurance policy" designed to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

It would keep the UK in a customs union with the EU and Northern Ireland in the EU's single market for goods.

In response to Mr Hunt's comments, Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said suggesting the DUP should be involved in future Brexit negotiations was "ludicrous and insulting" to voters in Northern Ireland.

"It shows yet again how detached the British Tory party is with reality on the ground in the north of Ireland," he said.

"The DUP do not speak for the people of the north on Brexit and that has been shown once again with the European election results.

"This suggestion obviously has more to do with the Tory leadership contest and Tory contenders attempting to curry favour with the DUP as they use them as pawns in their power games."

The DUP has been contacted for a comment.

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