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Northern Ireland Brexit veto plan just 'window dressing,' says DUP's Wilson

DUP MP Sammy Wilson
DUP MP Sammy Wilson
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Plans to give the Northern Ireland power-sharing structures a veto over the introduction of new EU laws have been dismissed as "window dressing" and spin.

David Lidington - the defacto deputy Prime Minister - is to open the debate ahead of next week's meaningful vote in parliament. He is set to outline a series of seven promises and assurances in a bid to sway Brexiteers and the DUP to support the government's withdrawal agreement with the EU.

As well as remaining in discussions with the EU on gaining further assurances over the backstop, a "Stormont lock" will be included to provide a legal guarantee that no new laws can be introduced over the heads of the NI Assembly.

The DUP has dismissed this saying that should regulations be rejected in Belfast, London would legislate over their heads.

Sammy Wilson said the only deal that could swing his party around was for a backstop that applied to the UK as a whole, or was removed entirely.

"Any guarantee can never supersede the legally binding commitments which will be made when this withdrawal agreement is accepted," he told Sky News.

"And no British Government or no Northern Ireland Assembly would be able to escape those commitments when they are put in place."

He said there was "nothing at all" to fear from a no-deal Brexit.

"We would prefer to have the relationship sorted out but it can't be sorted out on the basis of breaking up the UK," said the East Antrim MP.

The DUP Brexit spokesman said there was "not a cigarette paper" between him and the views of his party.

"This issue is far too important," he added, "This is an issue about if Northern Ireland stays in the UK, whether Northern Ireland keeps linked to its main market in GB. Constitutionally and economically if this deal went through it would ruin us.

"We would do what the IRA failed to do over 40 years of a terrorist campaign."

Alliance leader Naomi Long also rejected the idea of a Stormont veto as "spin".

"I'm not sure the Assembly can veto something that is part of an international treaty," she told the BBC.

David Lidington said specific proposals would make clear the "place of Northern Ireland within the UK internal market and give the Assembly a veto over introducing new laws within the backstop". He said there was a desire to get the institutions back up and running.

East Belfast MP Gareth Robinson said a time-limited backstop would be a "significant change" to the withdrawal agreement suggesting his party would support the move. He also said the ability to unilaterally withdraw from the backstop would also indicate "progress".

He said there was no prospect of the current agreement getting parliamentary approval forcing the prime minister to return to the EU to seek a better deal.

Asked if Brexit would encourage the restoration of Northern Ireland power-sharing sooner rather than later, he said that had been raised in the past by commentators and which had "failed thus far".

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