Belfast Telegraph

DUP reiterates opposition to May's deal over 'toxic' backstop

Prime Minister Theresa May on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday
Prime Minister Theresa May on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday

By Michelle Devane

The DUP has stepped up its opposition to the "toxic" Brexit deal, with deputy leader Nigel Dodds branding the backstop the "poison" affecting any vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons.

He was speaking after the Prime Minister warned that the UK will be in "uncharted territory" if MPs do not back her Brexit plan.

Mr Dodds said: "Theresa May still insists that what she has negotiated is a good deal.

"She should remember that it would already have been consigned to the bin but for her pulling the vote in December."

He made the comments after Mrs May confirmed yesterday that the vote in Parliament would go ahead around January 15, despite speculation it could be delayed for a second time.

Mr Dodds blamed the EU and the Irish Government for rejecting efforts to rewrite the deal or find a compromise.

"The responsibility for this lies primarily with the EU," he said.

"EU spokespersons have gone out of their way to reiterate that there will be no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement.

"True to form the Dublin Government has quickly shut down any possibility of a breakthrough by its now familiar tactic of a fast and flat rejection of any form of compromise."

He added: "This is a time for the United Kingdom to make clear what it wants and needs for a withdrawal agreement to pass Parliament so that the EU is in no doubt as to what's required for a deal.

"The backstop remains the poison which makes any vote for the withdrawal agreement so toxic.

"The EU has shown in the past that it will move but only if faced with a resolute red line on the part of the UK Government.

"The coming days will show if this Government is made of the right stuff."

Since Mrs May pulled the vote Mr Dodds said the DUP had engaged with the UK Government in an attempt to move forward towards a deal that could command support in the House of Commons.

But he said: "So far, the fundamental problems which make this a bad deal appear not to have changed."

The Prime Minister, who is still seeking further guarantees from Brussels in an effort to win over critics ahead of the Commons vote, warned Brexiteers they risked derailing the UK's departure from the European Union if they did not back her deal.

And she again rejected calls for a second referendum, saying it would be disrespectful to people who voted for Brexit in 2016.

As MPs prepare to return to Westminster after the Christmas break, Mrs May said no alternative plan could respect the 2016 referendum result, protect jobs and provide certainty to citizens and businesses.

And she promised further measures specific to Northern Ireland and a greater role for Parliament, and said "we are still working on" getting extra assurances from Brussels.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show yesterday, she repeatedly sidestepped questions about whether she would keep putting the deal back to MPs if it gets rejected, instead saying: "If the deal is not voted on, this vote that is coming up, then actually we are going to be in uncharted territory. I don't think anybody can say exactly what will happen in terms of the reaction we will see in Parliament."

She said Labour was "playing politics" and opposing any deal to create "the greatest chaos" possible. "We have got people who are promoting a second referendum in order to stop Brexit, and we have got people who want to see their perfect Brexit.

"I would say don't let the search for the perfect become the enemy of the good because the danger there is that we end up with no Brexit at all," she added.

The Commons vote on the withdrawal agreement, officially slated for the week of January 14, is expected to be held on Tuesday, January 15. Mrs May said it would be "that sort of time".

Earlier, speaking in Los Angeles, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: "Parliament needs to understand that if we're not able to come to Parliament and get a deal, then we may end up leaving the EU with no deal."

"Most people seem to say that's not what they want to see - well they better make up their minds before we get to a week on Tuesday because that's going to be a very key decision-making point."

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner suggested Labour could offer a referendum on a renegotiated Brexit deal.

He said Labour's plan remained to push for a general election if Mrs May's deal was rejected, and then seek to negotiate a new deal with Europe.

"The reason Theresa May has had such a botched set of negotiations is because of her red lines," he told Sky News. "If we as a new, incoming Labour government were to go to Europe without those red lines we know that we could get a different, better deal and that's what we want to try and achieve.

"At that stage it makes sense to go to the country and to say 'here we are, this is what we have managed to negotiate, this is the deal that we have managed to conclude because we don't have the same red lines as Theresa May, we think it's a better way forward'."

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