Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson wanted Brexit deal 'at any cost' to avoid extension, says DUP

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds speaking on Thursday. Credit: BBC
DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds speaking on Thursday. Credit: BBC

The DUP has accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of agreeing to the EU's demands on a Brexit deal to avoid having to ask for an extension.

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds accused Mr Johnson of losing his nerve, saying that the PM could have got a better deal in Brussels given more time.

He said Mr Johnson had been "too eager by far" to come to an accommodation "at any cost" with the EU.

His comments came as DUP leader Arlene Foster accused London, Brussels and Dublin of turning their back on the powersharing arrangements that form the cornerstone of the Good Friday/Belfast peace agreement.

"The Benn Act has forced Boris Johnson into somewhat of desperation measures in order to avoid trying to get an extension," Mr Dodds said.

"He has been too eager by far to get a deal at any cost, and the fact of the matter is, if he held his nerve and held out he would, of course, have got better concessions that kept the integrity, both economic and constitutionally, of the United Kingdom."

Ms Foster said the new arrangements replacing the backstop created several economic borders down the Irish Sea, which separated Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

"This gives us a border in the Irish Sea in terms of VAT, in terms of customs and in terms of single market rules, without any consent that is meaningful for the people of Northern Ireland," she said.

The DUP leader said allowing Stormont to vote on retaining the arrangements on the basis of a simple majority vote, rather than using the mechanism that requires a majority of unionists and nationalists, undermined the principle of powersharing.

"For the first time in 21 years we are moving away from powersharing, we are moving away from the majority of unionism and the majority of nationalists, we are moving to single majority vote," she said.

Ms Foster said it would represent a fundamental change to the 1998 Northern Ireland Act that enshrined the peace treaty.

"If we are going down this route in terms of majority rule, what does that mean for devolution?" she asked.

"What does it mean for the return of devolution, and all those things will have to be taken into account."

She added: "All of that together makes this deal unacceptable for us as guardians of Northern Ireland in terms of the economy and in terms of the constitution.

"We wish it was otherwise but that, unfortunately, is the assessment we have made."

Mr Dodds also criticised the consent arrangements.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels. Photo credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

"At the last minute the Irish Government, Europe and London are agreeing to drive a coach and horses through the very Belfast Agreement they profess to support, in order to ensure on this one single issue, of Northern Ireland being tied to the European customs union and single market rules, whilst the rest of the UK goes elsewhere in terms of its own regulations, that that has to be not by parallel consent, not by the consent of unionists and nationalists, but that one community can override the other.

"That clearly is contrary to everything they profess to believe.

"It is a major rewriting of the Belfast Agreement and it is something that anyone who has any concern for any kind of political process in Northern Ireland should be very, very concerned about."

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that he believed the deal would benefit Northern Ireland.

"There will be regulatory alignment on goods, so that any checks will happen at the ports, and a customs arrangement that allows Northern Ireland to stay in the UK customs territory but is organised in such a way that it allows them to benefit from any trade deals that the United Kingdom might do but still there will be no tariffs on trade between north and south and no checks along the land border, which is crucial from our point of view," he said in Brussels.

"Above all, our objectives as Ireland and as Europe have been met - citizens' rights are protected.

"We have a financial settlement, there will be no hard border between north and south, the all-island economy will continue to develop and north-south cooperation as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement can resume and continue. We secured the integrity of the European single market and our place in it and the common travel area between the UK and Ireland will stay in place."

European Council President Donald Tusk said that the PM's concession on Northern Ireland allowed a deal to be reached.

"The new version of the deal has been positively assessed by Ireland, I said from the beginning we would stand behind Ireland," he said.

"The deal has been positively assessed by the EU Commission, safe for the European Union, the key change in comparison with the earlier version is the Prime Minister's concession to allow customs checks in Northern Ireland."

Speaking at the EU summit on Thursday Mr Johnson said that he believed it was a "great deal" for the whole of the UK.

"It means is that we in the UK can come out of the EU as one United Kingdom - England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, together," he said.

"And it means we can decide our future together. We can take back control, as the phrase goes, of our money, our borders, our laws, together.

"And we will be able to do free trade agreements around the world."

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