Belfast Telegraph

'Humiliating to see PM beg EU,' says Foster as DUP votes against Brexit extension

The DUP has a confidence and supply arrangement with Mrs May’s Government (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)
The DUP has a confidence and supply arrangement with Mrs May’s Government (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP joined with a Tory rebellion on voting against a motion backing the Prime Minister's plan to seek to delay Brexit until the end of June.

MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of the extension request by 420 votes to 110 - a majority of 310.

Nine of the DUP's 10 MPs voted against the Government along with 97 Conservatives. Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson was not recorded to have voted Parliament records show, while North Down independent Lady Sylvia Hermon voted in favour.

The Prime Minister was forced to bring forward the motion under legislation pushed by Labour former minister Yvette Cooper, as part of a parliamentary bid to prevent a no-deal Brexit on April 12 – although any extension is subject to the decision of the EU.

Speaking to the BBC DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was painful to watch the Prime Minister "beg" EU leaders to leave saying the talks had been handled badly.

"As someone who passionately believes in the UK and its capacity and potential I find it quite painful to watch what's going on," she said.

"It is rather humiliating we are having to go and beg so that we can leave.

"It is nearly three years since the nation voted to leave the EU and we are now pleading to stay in so we can deal with matters that should have been dealt with before now.

"We have said that she needed to be  strong, she needed to show leadership but I am sorry to say that has not been evident in the past couple of months."

EU leaders are meeting on Wednesday to consider the Prime Minister's second request to delay Brexit.

In a draft conclusions document, reported by Sky News, it states the EU would allow an extension but crucially the date for it to end has been left blank.

European Commission President Donald Tusk is sceptical the UK Government's Brexit deal could be completed by the end of June. He is concerned granting further extensions would lead to a "rolling series" of extensions "over-shadowing" the work of the EU27 for months.

He said there should be a discussion on a longer extension which would allow the UK to leave when it could in order to avoid an "accidental no-deal Brexit".

Mr Tusk said a flexible extension would "allow it to terminate the extension automatically, as soon as both sides have ratified the Withdrawal Agreement".

"The UK would be free to leave whenever it is ready. And the EU27 would avoid repeated Brexit summits.

"Importantly, a long extension would provide more certainty and predictability by removing the threat of constantly shifting cliff-edge dates.

"Furthermore, in the event of a continued stalemate, such a longer extension would allow the UK to rethink its Brexit strategy."

He added: "As you know, with Brexit there are no easy solutions. Both aforementioned options have their advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, let us discuss them in an open, creative, and constructive way."

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