Belfast Telegraph

Backstop is 'totally unacceptable' to unionists and must be defeated says Dodds

By Gareth Cross

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said that the backstop within Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal is "totally unacceptable to unionists" and must be defeated in the House of Commons next week.

Mr Dodds was speaking after Attorney General Geoffrey Cox's full legal advice on Mrs May's deal was released to MPs a day after the House of Commons found the Government in contempt of Parliament for trying to keep it secret.

Mr Cox found that the protocol setting out the terms of the backstop “does not provide for a mechanism that is likely to enable the UK lawfully to exit the UK-wide customs union without a subsequent agreement”.

And he said that – despite assurances from both London and Brussels that it is intended to be temporary – the protocol would “endure indefinitely” under international law until another agreement takes its place.

His advice warned: “In the absence of a right of termination, there is a legal risk that the United Kingdom might become subject to protracted and repeating rounds of negotiations.

Mrs May's deal will come before the House of Commons next Tuesday, November 11 and faces an uphill struggle to be passed with opposition from the DUP, the Labour Party and a section of MPs within Mrs May's own Conservative Party.

Mr Dodds said that the publishing of the full legal advice "vindicated" the DUP's position in opposition to the backstop arrangement.

The DUP is unhappy that the deal will see Northern Ireland aligned with EU rules and remain part of the single market with checks on some goods coming in from the UK to Northern Ireland, if the Brexit backstop is implemented.

The advice said that Great Britain would be "essentially treated as a third country by Northern Ireland for goods passing from Great Britain into Northern Ireland."

Mr Dodds said this was " totally unacceptable and economically mad in that it will be erecting internal economic and trade barriers within the United Kingdom.

He said that the advice showed that the backstop would not be temporary in nature and that Northern Ireland could be forced to remain in the customs union while the rest of Great Britain exited.

"This advice concisely sets out the stark reality of the operation of the backstop. Its publication demonstrates how the Prime Minister has failed to abide by the commitments she gave in that the United Kingdom as a whole would leave the European Union and that she would ensure there would be no customs or regulatory divergence within the United Kingdom," the North Belfast MP said.

"This backstop is totally unacceptable to unionists throughout the United Kingdom and it must be defeated and arrangements renegotiated that uphold the commitments which the Prime Minister and her government has in the House of Commons."

Speaking in the House of Commons Wednesday East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell rejected the idea that the backstop was needed to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

"Does the Prime Minister agree at this last moment that the entire premise of the backstop has been based on a false assertion, it is a practical, physical and political impossibility under any circumstances for a hard border to emerge on the island of Ireland. Why has she allowed that to be used as a negotiating ploy by the EU against the United Kingdom?," Mr Campbell asked.

Mrs May rejected Mr Campbell's comments saying that the people of Northern Ireland needed a commitment that there would be no hard border and that a political assertion was not enough.

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