Belfast Telegraph

May bid to sweet talk DUP proves futile as Wilson insists there is 'no way' party will back her deal

By David Young

A senior DUP figure has told Theresa May that the party cannot support her Brexit deal under any circumstances.

Sammy Wilson's warning came after the Prime Minister held talks with the DUP in recent days as she tries to get her deal through Parliament later this month.

The DUP is opposed to her withdrawal agreement, citing the controversial backstop, and saying it will create new barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK and could end up as the default template for future relations.

Yesterday Mr Wilson delivered another unequivocal message to Mrs May.

Guesting on BBC's Today radio programme, the East Antrim MP was asked if there was any way that his party could support the deal.

"No, there is not," he said.

"It's not just because of the regulations which Northern Ireland would be subject to, but also because of the backstop, which would mean we would have to treat the rest of the UK as a third country: we could not participate in any trade deals which the UK may enter into in the future, and we'd find that there would be a border down the Irish Sea which would impede trade with our biggest trading partner, namely Great Britain."

Mr Wilson said that businesses and farmers here should be "totally relaxed" about a no-deal Brexit, which he felt would open up opportunities within the UK for local enterprises.

He added they should be more worried about the current deal, saying it would "keep them tied to EU regulation".

He added: "It's going to cut them off from the GB market, where we send 60% of our exports, and it's going to stop us participating in UK trade deals in the future."

Mr Wilson voiced concern about the messages coming from the Irish Government, which gave the impression that it saw the backstop as a permanent arrangement rather than a temporary, and perhaps unnecessary, insurance policy for the European Union.

Pointing to Dublin's lack of preparations at the border as Brexit Day, March 29, nears, he suggested that their concerns about a hard border were "a con trick".

His remarks came as Sinn Fein leaders prepared to fly to Brussels next week to meet EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Party president Mary Lou McDonald and vice-president Michelle O'Neill will also meet senior MEPs during the visit.

It is expected that they will use the meeting to urge Mr Barnier to resist any pressure coming from UK to amend the proposed agreement to remove the backstop.

Yesterday Sinn Fein MLA Caoimhe Archibald warned that a no-deal Brexit was "one of the biggest threats" that the higher education sector had ever faced.

She was speaking after a joint letter from the leaders of 150 UK universities and higher education bodies was sent to all MPs warning of potential post-Brexit problems.

The letter was signed by the heads of Universities UK, the Russell Group, which includes Queen's in Belfast, Guild HE, Million Plus and University Alliance.

It warned that 50,000 staff and 130,000 students from EU countries were now facing "significant uncertainty about their futures".

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