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We'll be doing Northern Ireland a big favour by voting May deal down, claims DUP

Wilson insists withdrawal agreement will hurt local business and agriculture

Prime Minister Theresa May
Prime Minister Theresa May
English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson takes part in a Ukip-backed ‘Brexit betrayal’
People holding placards opposing Tommy Robinson's presence
Protesters taking part in the pro-Brexit demonstration

By David Young and David Hughes

Sammy Wilson last night insisted he would be doing business and farming in Northern Ireland "a massive favour" by voting against the Brexit deal tomorrow.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, the East Antrim MP warns that the withdrawal agreement would hamstring the local economy, entrenching EU rules which would hurt businesses.

"They will be subject to the full range of EU laws and rules as they now exist and are developed in the future," the MP argues.

"This covers over 300 areas of economic, environmental, labour, state aid and agriculture policies. Even if those rules hurt NI businesses they will still automatically apply."

The DUP's outspoken Brexit spokesman had previously caused a rift with business leaders in favour of the withdrawal agreement when he referred to them as NIO "puppets".

He adds: "I will have no difficulty in ignoring the siren voices raised in support of this rotten agreement when the vote is taken in Parliament. In doing so I will be doing the unionist cause and the business community in NI a massive favour."

The DUP is sticking to its pledge to oppose Mrs May's Brexit proposals when it comes to the vote in the House of Commons tomorrow.

The party's position piles more pressure on the Prime Minister to amend or abandon her Brexit deal, which has attracted heavy criticism not only from her political opponents, but also from many within her own party.

Yesterday Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay insisted that the vote would still go ahead tomorrow amid speculation Mrs May might be forced to delay it in a last-ditch effort to avoid a humiliating defeat.

The Prime Minister warned Tory would-be rebels the country would be in "uncharted waters" if the deal was rejected.

"It would mean grave uncertainty for the nation with a very real risk of no Brexit or leaving the European Union with no deal," she told the Mail on Sunday. "We have a leader of the Opposition who thinks of nothing but attempting to bring about a general election, no matter what the cost to the country.

"As someone who cares passionately about my country and my party, I believe Jeremy Corbyn getting his hands on power is a risk we cannot afford to take."

Reports suggested Mrs May could make an emergency trip to Brussels ahead of a planned summit on Thursday in an effort to secure further concessions in a bid to win over critics of her plan.

The Prime Minister spoke to European Council president Donald Tusk yesterday, although Downing Street insisted it was a routine call ahead of the summit.

He said it would be a "an important week for the fate of Brexit".

Tory MP Will Quince quit as a ministerial aide to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, while the Sunday Telegraph reported that another parliamentary private secretary was on the verge of quitting, and Cabinet Brexiteer Penny Mordaunt was considering whether to back the deal or resign.

She has not backed Mrs May's deal yet, but has said she supports the Prime Minister.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said he would back the deal - but indicated that unless it was passed quickly he might support a second referendum because the original decision to leave may "no longer represent a reflection of current intent".

Other ministers - including Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd - have suggested that a Norway-plus deal keeping the UK in the single market and a customs union could be a "plausible" alternative if Mrs May's plan is rejected.

Any defeat would lead to fresh questions about Mrs May's political future.

Former Work and Pensions secretary Esther McVey said she would give the prospect of standing as leader serious consideration, and suggested that Brexiteers should unite around a single candidate.

Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday: "I've always said I wouldn't rule it out, but it would be very self-indulgent to be engaging in all that speculation when we've got such a big issue up for decision on Tuesday."

Meanwhile, a 'Brexit betrayal' march led by right-wing activist Tommy Robinson was "vastly" outnumbered by counter-demonstrators, opposition organisers said. The English Defence League founder turned-Ukip adviser marched with supporters through London yesterday before addressing a rally beside Parliament Square.

Scotland Yard placed restrictions on the march as well as on a counter-demonstration organised by Labour supporters and anti-fascists. Labour grassroots group Momentum said about 15,000 turned up to oppose the march, claiming opponents "vastly" outnumbered the Ukip-led demonstrators nearly five to one.

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionist Party executive met in Belfast on Saturday, where it unanimously agreed that the withdrawal agreement should be rejected.

Party leader Robin Swann MLA said: "We want a deal, the country wants a deal, but not a deal where the ransom to pay is the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.

"It's time to go back to the negotiating table."

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