Belfast Telegraph

Amendment will not save flawed agreement, DUP tell Government

By Our Political Staff

Arlene Foster took to Twitter last night to extinguish a glimmer of hope that had been offered to Theresa May for next week's Brexit deal vote.

A group of Tory backbenchers tabled an amendment that would give MPs some control over the controversial Northern Ireland border backstop.

The alteration to the meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement would mean Parliament would have to approve a decision to trigger the backstop arrangement or extend the transition period beyond December 2020.

It was tabled by Northern Ireland minister Hugo Swire, Richard Graham and Bob Neill, hours after the Prime Minister indicated Parliament would choose between the two options after the UK formally quits the EU.

The move was seen as a bid to bolster flagging support for Mrs May ahead of a crunch Commons vote on her EU withdrawal deal next Tuesday - a showdown the PM made clear yesterday that she would not postpone.

It would add provisions for the Commons to "approve the Government's proposed approach, including whether or not an extension to the implementation period should be pursued; and parliamentary approval of the commencement of the powers implementing the Northern Ireland backstop".

Mr Graham, who sits on the Exiting the EU Committee, said it had been clear for some time the backstop "was and remains the thing that gives colleagues the most concern".

He said: "What we are trying to achieve is something that gets a lot of support from colleagues and that the Government, we hope, will take forward because it will make a real difference to the vote."

But DUP leader Mrs Foster, whose party opposes Mrs May's deal, swiftly warned that the amendment would not be enough, tweeting: "Domestic legislative tinkering won't cut it.

"The legally binding international Withdrawal Treaty would remain fundamentally flawed as evidenced by the Attorney General's legal advice."

Any "parliamentary lock" to give MPs a vote before the backstop is implemented would not persuade the DUP, party deputy leader Nigel Dodds indicated.

"The Prime Minister's plan now appears to be that MPs would get a vote on whether to start the backstop. That does not address the fundamental problem, which is the Withdrawal Agreement and the fact it will commence automatically at the end of the transition period," he said.

"This proposal has been viewed by many MPs across the House of Commons as a last-ditch effort to try and give some cover to this deal.

"That deal, however, is fundamentally flaw and it is that which needs to be amended."

Meanwhile, disgraced DUP MP Ian Paisley has said "nothing concentrates the mind like a hanging", in an apparent reference to Mrs May's Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

Speaking during the Brexit debate in the Commons yesterday, the controversial North Antrim MP warned International Trade Secretary Liam Fox that the "gallows are being built" for the Brexit deal.

The North Antrim MP said: "It was Samuel Johnson who observed that nothing so concentrates the mind like a hanging.

"And as the gallows are being built next Tuesday for this Withdrawal Agreement, can the Secretary of State confirm if there are any discussions taking place about putting this motion off or about altering it in any way, or is the Government fixed on walking towards those gallows?"

Dr Fox replied: "The Government will continue to make the case for what it believes is a balanced and reasonable agreement, but of course the Government will want to talk to members, it will want to look to ways to give a reassurance to the House wherever we're able to do that."

Belfast Telegraph

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