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Brussels can show it really cares about Northern Ireland by giving ground, says Dodds

The DUP’s Nigel Dodds (left) and Sammy Wilson
The DUP’s Nigel Dodds (left) and Sammy Wilson
Prime Minister Theresa May
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The DUP has said that if Brussels really cares about Northern Ireland it will offer Theresa May a better Brexit deal.

Speaking after he led a party delegation to meet the Prime Minister in Downing Street yesterday, Nigel Dodds said the DUP would be working closely with the Government to find a new agreement.

The party's deputy leader dismissed "nonsense propaganda" about a hard border and restated the DUP's opposition to the backstop.

The delegation included East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson and MEP Diane Dodds.

Mr Dodds claimed the current withdrawal agreement "flies in the face of the Government's commitments on Northern Ireland as we leave the EU".

He said: "Contrary to pro-EU spin, the backstop is not the best of both worlds.

"It is potentially indefinite in time, would place a barrier between us and our main trading partner in Great Britain and give enormous leverage to the European Union in the negotiations on the future relationship with the United Kingdom."

He added: "We will have further discussions with the Prime Minister and will continue to work with the Government in the interests of getting a better deal.

"Brussels must now demonstrate that if it truly cares about Northern Ireland, then erecting a new east-west barrier should be no more palatable than having any new north-south barriers."

Mr Dodds accused Remainers of creating false fears.

"The Irish Republic's 'no-deal' preparations published just before Christmas have laid bare the nonsense propaganda about a hard border," he said. "No one wants a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Indeed, its becoming clearer by the day that no one is ever going to construct such a border.

"With this clarity emerging in London, Dublin and Brussels, there is evidently no need for the aspects of the withdrawal agreement which have been so vigorously opposed by a broad cross-section of the House of Commons."

Meanwhile, Best for Britain, which describes itself as an organisation attempting to keep the UK open to EU membership, claimed the DUP had "pulled the rug out" from underneath the Prime Minister.

The group said: "Her Brexit deal is dead in the water. If Theresa May can't convince Nigel Dodds and her own party to back her deal after a one-to-one, why should the country support it?

"It irritates Leavers and Remainers alike, and it actively concedes influence over British laws. It's a bad deal.

"There's only one solution to this nightmare. We need to give the public a final say on Brexit with the option to stay and strengthen ourselves within Europe."

Mrs May last month postponed a parliamentary vote on her deal, which faced certain defeat after the DUP and Brexiteer Tories rejected it.

A debate on the withdrawal agreement is due to resume in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

MPs will then vote on it the following week.

The DUP has said it will not support the agreement unless their are fundamental changes to the legal text.

In her New Year message, Mrs May urged the Commons to allow the UK to "turn a corner" by voting for her deal. She has so far failed to secure any concessions from Brussels.

She said: "New Year is a time to look ahead and in 2019 the UK will start a new chapter.

"The Brexit deal I have negotiated delivers on the vote of the British people and in the next few weeks MPs will have an important decision to make. If parliament backs a deal, Britain can turn a corner."

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