Belfast Telegraph

'Big gaps' remain between DUP and Government on Brexit says Dodds

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said that "big gaps" remain in negotiations between his party and the Government around Brexit.

Mr Dodds was speaking as the two sides attempt to find a compromise, with Prime Minister Theresa May hoping to secure the support of the party's ten MPs for her Brexit withdrawal deal.

Despite days of negotiations the North Belfast MP told the BBC that the DUP "haven't softened" on their Brexit stance and that the sides were still some way apart.

He said focus had shifted after Speaker John Bercow ruled that Mrs May could not present her Brexit deal for a third meaningful vote without significant changes to the proposal. 

"The Government have been talking to us, those were good discussions, but there were and still are big gaps," Mr Dodds said.

"Given the speaker's announcement the Government has been entirely focused on how to handle that and less on the discussions with us and others in the Conservative Party."

Mr Dodds said that the DUP's position had remained the same throughout the Brexit process.

"We have always been very clear about the conditions under which we would back any withdrawal agreement," he said.

"And that is about the treatment of Northern Ireland in terms of single market and customs union compared to the rest of the United Kingdom."

The DUP remain opposed to Mrs May's deal due to the controversial backstop clause, aimed to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

The party and hardline Tory Brexiteers have claimed that the backstop would create a trade border in the Irish Sea and could leave the UK tied to the EU indefinetly.

With time running out ahead of Brexit on March 29 and with no deal in place the Prime Minister is expected to ask the EU for a Brexit extension when she visits Brussels later this week.

Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney has said the UK would need to provide a "very persuasive plan" to go with any requests for a delay to Brexit.

"The disruptive effect of Brexit for another nine months or another whatever period of time is something that I think people will need convincing on.," Mr Coveney said.

"What I mean by that is if there is going to be a request for a long extension of Article 50 by the UK then there will need to be a very persuasive plan to go with that to explain why that's needed and how they will use the time to conclude the outstanding issues that haven't been able to be agreed in London in the context of the Brexit process.

"It's also been very clear that there is absolutely no appetite to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement or the detail of that."

Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)
Tanaiste Simon Coveney (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

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