Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland parties turn on DUP after ‘flawed’ Brexit plan is pushed through

By Mark Bain

The DUP has been accused of "a monumental error of judgment" that will have "a devastating long-term impact" on Northern Ireland, the leader of the Ulster Unionists has said.

Robin Swann MLA also said the DUP "owe an apology and an explanation to the people who voted for them" after the Prime Minister secured Cabinet agreement on her Brexit deal.

Mr Swann said it is "absolutely crucial" that his party has time to analyse the deal before coming to conclusions.

"It will be on that basis that the Ulster Unionist Party will make its decisions rather than on leaks and presumptions," he said.

"The Prime Minister has stated that the draft withdrawal agreement, as accepted by the Cabinet, protects the Union and is in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom, but the proof will be when we have had time to study all the documentation.

"If the words in the draft withdrawal agreement confirm the speculation, this has been a monumental error of judgment on behalf of the DUP which will have a devastating long-term impact.

"People were told to put their trust in the DUP. The DUP will owe an apology and an explanation to the people who voted for them on the basis of 'More votes. More seats. More influence. More for Northern Ireland'.

"Well what exactly were they doing with their influence?

"A stark example is that Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of rules which includes VAT and excise in respect of goods and state aid rules, so rather than the prospect of being the best of both worlds, this would restrict any potential opportunity."

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill accused the DUP of using "reckless language" and added: "The backstop is the only insurance policy we have. This has been a mess, a debacle. There is no good to come from Brexit. There is no magic deal sitting waiting to be done.

"My message to Theresa May is simple and clear. We, the four main pro-Remain parties, speak for the majority of people in the north. The DUP do not speak for the majority.

"We need to protect our economy and that is about staying in the Customs Union, the single market. That is about the backstop being permanent, there unless or until something better comes along."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood MLA called on Arlene Foster and the DUP to "cut the hysteria" and "act on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland".

Mr Eastwood said: "The reaction to a reported Brexit deal by the DUP is both flippant and irrational.

"I would remind Arlene Foster that her first priority is to defend political stability and the economic future of our people here. It's time for cool heads, not kneejerk reactions.

"The best Brexit deal is no Brexit at all but this draft agreement seeks to protect Ireland from a hard border. There is a proper backstop that protects citizens and businesses here.

"The Good Friday Agreement is protected, including the principle of consent. Unionists should be comfortable that there will only be constitutional change when a majority votes for it. This agreement is about protecting and enhancing our economy and protecting our peace process."

Alliance leader Naomi Long also said while she is relieved a potential agreement between the EU and UK is closer, there remains no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit.

Mrs Long said Alliance's preference remained a People's Vote on the deal.

"We are relieved there is a potential agreement between the EU and UK on a Withdrawal Agreement, including a backstop which meets the conditions set out in Joint Report from December 2017 and which is supported by representatives of the majority of people in Northern Ireland," he said.

"The backstop is not a threat to the constitutional position here. Rather it is an insurance policy based on existing precedents, and helping us to better survive Brexit.

"However, there is nothing to celebrate because there is no such thing as a good or sensible Brexit. The backstop is a last resort safety net, the bare minimum to protect the Good Friday Agreement and to avoid a hard border. But only as insurance against a much worse fate. Practically, it is a third party fire and theft policy rather than a fully comprehensive one."

Belfast Telegraph

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