Belfast Telegraph

'Did she push the delete button'- DUP's Dodds asks PM what happened to Stormont approval of Brexit plan

By Gareth Cross

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has quizzed the Prime Minister on what happened to a proposal to give the Stormont Assembly a say on the final Brexit withdrawal agreement.

In December 2017 the European Union (EU) and United Kingdom published a joint report on the status of Brexit negotiations.

The report said that no new regulatory barriers would be allowed between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK without the permission of Stormont.

The proposal was not mentioned in Mrs May's draft withdrawal agreement, unveiled last week.

Stormont collapsed in January 2017 following the resignation of deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness over the RHI Scandal and equality issues.

Subsequent attempts at reestablishing the institutions have proved unsuccesful.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday Mr Dodds asked why the provision was not included in the draft withdrawal agreement.

"Why has the Prime Minister deleted all reference to that in the withdrawal agreement, did she push the delete button?," the North Belfast MP said.

The Prime Minister said that Mr Dodds was "absolutely right" about the December agreement.

"The issue of what the processes would be within the UK to look at this issue of regulations is a matter that will be a matter for this United Kingdom to determine. To determine both our parliamentary rules and our parliamentary decisions on that and indeed the Stormont lock which was expressed in the December joint report," Mrs May replied.

"Of course, as the Rt Hon gentleman (Mr Dodds) will also know, the lock that was in the December joint report referred to a decision being taken by the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly, which sadly we do not have in place today."

Brexit dominated the discussion on Wednesday as the Prime Minister prepares to head to Brussels for talks with the EU on her draft withdrawal deal.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the withdrawal agreement did not cover the cost of extending the transition under the Northern Ireland backstop.

"In February, the Prime Minister said that creating a customs and regulatory down the Irish Sea is something that 'no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to', can the Prime Minister explain why the backstop agreement would create exactly that border," Mr Corbyn said.

Mrs May argued that she had secured concessions from the EU in her deal.

"It would not create exactly that, from February until the last few weeks the EU said that the only answer was a Northern Ireland customs territory, we argued and we resisted and we made clear that we would not accept the position of the EU and a few weeks ago they agreed with our position, they conceded to the UK so that there will not be a customs border down the Irish Sea," the PM said.

Mrs May accused the Labour leader of not reading or understanding the withdrawal agreement after he admitted at the weekend he hadn't read it all.

"There is an entire protocol in the withdrawal agreement setting out regulations that apply only to Northern Ireland, she clearly didn't discuss this draft agreement with the DUP, because their Brexit spokesperson (Sammy Wilson) said 'we are clear, we will not be voting for this humiliation," the Labour leader fired back.

"It fails the Prime Minister's red lines, fails Labour's six tests, and it fails to impress the new Northern Ireland minister (John Penrose), who just hours before he was appointed said the deal is 'dead'."

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