Belfast Telegraph

Paisley reminds government that DUP keeps it in power after Dublin direct rule 'insult'

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

DUP MP Ian Paisley described as an "insult" a warning from Michael Gove direct rule would have to be imposed in a no-deal Brexit - and moves would be taken to consult Dublin on decision making, prompting him to remind the government of who kept it in power.

He asked Cabinet Minister David Lidington for clarification on the comments by Mr Gove.

In the Commons on Wednesday Environment Minister Gove said a no-deal Brexit would mean imposing direct rule and beginning formal engagements with the Irish Government about making arrangements for decision making in Northern Ireland.

"[He] basically said that more powers would be given to Dublin to be exercised over Northern Ireland," said North Antrim MP Paisley on Thursday lunchtime to Cabinet Minister Lidington.

"Now the minister will know how insulting it is to members who sit on this bench [the DUP].

"He will also know it is the members who sit on this bench that keep his party in power.

"Would the minister care to clarify that the Secretary of State misspoke and there will be no involvement in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland and its governments?"

Responding Mr Lidington - who is the defacto deputy prime minister - said the government's position was consistent and it was standing by its commitments to the Good Friday Agreement.

"There are absolutely no plans at all to transfer additional powers or rights to the government of Ireland."

In the Commons the Environment Secretary opened the debate on Wednesday afternoon in the place of the prime minister and ahead of a vote on ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

He was asked about the warning by the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service of the "dire consequences" a no-deal Brexit would have on Northern Ireland by Lady Sylvia Hermon who was highlighting the lack of a devolved government in the region.

"There would be particular pressures on Northern Ireland if we leave without a deal on 29 March," Mr Gove said.

"It is also clear that the current situation, with no Executive, would be difficult to sustain in the uniquely challenging context of a no-deal exit.

"If the House voted for no deal, we would have to start formal engagement with the Irish Government about further arrangements for providing strengthened decision making in the event of that outcome.

"That would include the real possibility of imposing a form of direct rule. That is a grave step, and experience shows us that it is hard to return from that step, and it would be especially difficult in the context of no deal."

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