Belfast Telegraph

DUP aims blow at unionist MP over Irish border issue

A unionist MP is viewed as "being on the side of the Dublin government" over Brexit issues, the DUP's deputy leader has claimed.

Nigel Dodds aimed his remarks at Independent Lady Hermon as debate in the Commons turned to the Irish border's future.

Lady Hermon (North Down) rejected the assessment, telling the Commons she was "not in the pocket" of the Irish government and had not spoken to them.

The pair clashed during day five of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill's committee stage.

Conservative former cabinet minister Ken Clarke challenged the DUP to confirm further details about why they objected to a proposal for post-Brexit border arrangements.

Mr Clarke, while intervening on Lady Hermon, said: "The DUP could always actually rescue their reputation if they confirm that their only objection was not having regulatory and customs convergence across the whole United Kingdom, and they were quite prepared to agree - as she and I would - that regulatory and customs convergence across the whole of the island of Ireland is certainly in the interests of inhabitants of both sides of the border."

Lady Hermon described it as a "very interesting" intervention, but said the DUP would have to speak for themselves.

She also said she hoped progress had been made between the UK Government and DUP over the issue, adding: "If I'm not right I'm sure one of the members for the DUP will quickly be on their feet and contradict me, and they haven't."

Mr Dodds, also the DUP's Westminster leader, intervened at this point to ask: "Could she answer the question posed by (Mr Clarke) when he said do you accept, as he does, that it's a good idea to have regulatory convergence and common rules between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

"Could she give a straight answer to that because many in Northern Ireland now view her as being on the side of the Dublin government on these issues."

A shout of "shameful" could be heard from one MP, with others groaning at Mr Dodds' final remark.

Lady Hermon replied: "The Prime Minister and indeed the Brexit Secretary yesterday made it absolutely clear that - at least I understood it - it was always the intention of the Prime Minister and the Government that there would be the same regulatory alignment right across all of the United Kingdom.

"Just for the record, if (Mr Dodds) wants me to say it again - I am a unionist and I am not in the pocket and I'm not propping up and have not spoken to the Dublin government and I strongly resent the implication in his question that I was."

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