Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Dodds hits out PM's 'inexcusable failure' over Brexit deal - 'Nothing has changed'

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds
DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has indicated that his party is unlikely to back Prime Minister Theresa May's withdrawal agreement after accusing her of "inexcusable failure" in the Brexit negotiations.

Mr Dodds was speaking ahead of an anticipated third vote on Mrs May's deal in the House of Commons next week. 

If the deal passes, the UK will be granted a Brexit extension until May 22, but if it is rejected a third time Mrs May will have to return to Brussels with new proposals by April 12 or face a no-deal scenario.

Mrs May has vowed that she will work "night and day" to secure the support of the DUP's ten MPs for her deal.

The DUP's Westminster leader said that Brexit talks in Brussels on Thursday were a "missed opportunity" with Mrs May failing to put forward changes "which could have improved the prospects of an acceptable withdrawal agreement and help unite the country".

However European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the negotiations were over and that the EU had done everything possible to facilitate a deal.

“This closes and completes the full package. There is no more that we can have,” he said on Thursday.

Despite this, Mr Dodds said that he still believed further negotiations could have been possible.

"That failure is all the more disappointing and inexcusable given the clear divisions and arguments which became evident amongst EU member states when faced with outcomes they don’t like," he said.

"As we have always said, negotiations with the EU inevitably go down to the wire and the Government has been far too willing to capitulate before securing the necessary changes which would get an agreement through the House of Commons.

"The Government has consistently settled for inferior compromises when they didn’t need to and when there was, and is, more negotiating with the EU to be done."

North Antrim MP Mr Dodds accused the Prime Minister of "putting the blame on others" following a robust speech on Wednesday evening.

He said that it could not "disguise the responsibility her government bears for the current debacle and the fact that her agreement has been twice overwhelmingly rejected in Parliament".

Earlier this month a second vote on Mrs May's deal was rejected in the Commons by 391 MPs, with 242 supporting. All ten DUP MPs voted against the deal.

The DUP have opposed the deal from the start due to the controversial backstop plan, aimed to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

Mr Dodds accused the Prime Minister of agreeing to "to kick the can down the road for another two weeks and humiliatingly revoke her oft-stated pledge that the UK would leave the EU on 29th March".

He said that in the eyes of the DUP "nothing has changed" as the risk of the UK being "trapped in the backstop" had not been addressed.

"The DUP has been very clear throughout that we want a deal which delivers on the referendum result and which works for all parts of the U.K. and for the EU as well," Mr Dodds said.

"But it must be a deal that protects the Union. That remains our abiding principle. We will not accept any deal which poses a long term risk to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom."

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