Belfast Telegraph

DUP did not discuss more money for Northern Ireland during meetings with UK government: Nigel Dodds

'Constructive dialogue' between Government and DUP over Brexit

The deputy leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds has said his party did not discuss further cash for Northern Ireland during meetings with senior cabinet ministers on Friday.

Speaking after DUP MPs had "significant discussions" with the UK government, including with Chancellor Philip Hammond, Mr Dodds said further funds for Northern Ireland was not discussed.

The DUP's confidence and supply agreement, which currently props up Theresa May's Conservative government, comes to an end in June.

The agreement has seen £1.5bn given to Northern Ireland on the basis the DUP supports the government's agenda in the House of Commons.

Mr Dodds said: "The Chancellor of the Exchequer is obviously a key member of the Government but he is also responsible for HMRC and the whole issue of their involvement in customs and other regulatory issues is a key concern for us."

Other ministers involved in the talks included David Lidington, Michael Gove and Julian Smith, he said.

Mr Dodds continued: "We are not discussing cash in these discussions."

He said the Government was now "very focused" on addressing the issue of the backstop.

"From day one, our focus has been on the red line of how Northern Ireland is treated separately from the rest of the UK.

"That is the issue that has been the priority concern for us."

Asked if it was likely a Brexit deal could be agreed in Parliament next week, the North Belfast MP said: "We have always said we want to get a deal but it has to be the right deal.

"We were very disappointed when the Attorney General made his statement on Tuesday to the house that he was not able to indicate any change and that the Prime Minister's documents that she brought back were not sufficient."

He added: "We want to get a deal. There has been progress made but I think now the government is very focused on ensuring the issue of the Irish backstop, the separation of Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK, that that is addressed.

"From day one our focus has been on the red line of how Northern Ireland is treated separately from the rest of the UK. That is the issue that is the priority issue for us."

Mr Dodds said the DUP was never within the school of thought that "no deal is the best deal".

Support from the DUP could lead to Mrs May's deal being approved by the Commons next week, after it was defeated for the second time on Tuesday.

It comes as European leaders consider whether to agree to UK calls for Britain's departure to be delayed.

MPs backed a bid to push-back Brexit beyond the scheduled date of March 29 in dramatic parliamentary scenes which saw a majority of the Conservative party in the opposite lobby from the Prime Minister.

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