Belfast Telegraph

Rees-Mogg 'surprised' if DUP don't back new Brexit proposals


Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg attended a DUP dinner in Ballymena in February.
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg attended a DUP dinner in Ballymena in February.
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he would be "very surprised" if the DUP did not sign up to the new government proposals on Brexit.

But he refused to rule out the government proceeding on any deal without the party's support.

The UK is expected to table fresh proposals aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock after a night of negotiations which went on to 11pm.

RTE reported of two sources confirming that British negotiators will bring forward an updated plan on Tuesday to deal with the issue of customs and the Irish border.

Mr Rees-Mogg told radio station LBC a deal was close and he believed there was the support in the Commons to find agreement when it returns to the house after the EU summit later this week. Cross party support will be crucial for any deal to pass.

"Big changes are happening," he said pointing to previous EU proclamations the withdrawal agreement was not up for reopening.

We are part of the UK. It would be contrary to the Belfast Agreement if there were to be a trade barrier between NI and the rest of the UK. Jeffrey Donaldson

The Brexiteer said in order for it to get through parliament it would need the support of both the Northern Ireland party and the European Research Group - the hardline Eurosceptic Conservative group the MP is a member of.

He was asked if the Government would proceed to push through a deal if it did not have the support of the DUP.

He said: "We are a unionist party. People make it sound as if we are to drag [the DUP] along kicking and screaming. The Conservative Party is not going to do something that is a risk to the United Kingdom.

"We believe in our country and our country is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

Previously Mr Rees-Mogg said he would be guided by the DUP, before then voting for Theresa May's withdrawal agreement, which the unionists vehemently opposed.

He continued: "Let's take unionism as a whole. Lady Hermon always ticks me off when I say we must always listen to the DUP and I like and admire many members of the DUP. It is a fine party and one which shares many values in common with the Conservative Party.

"But we are looking at unionism as a whole and the DUP are the biggest representatives of unionism in parliament. So their view is obviously important."

It comes after the DUP leader Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds held a 90-minute meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday night in Downing Street.

Any agreement must work for everyone, the whole of the United Kingdom and the whole of the European Union. Michel Barnier

European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of EU General Affairs ministers in Luxembourg (Virginia Mayo/AP)
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks with the media as he arrives for a meeting of EU General Affairs ministers in Luxembourg (Virginia Mayo/AP)

Speaking to the BBC prior to that meeting, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the speculation around any potential deal was not correct.

The MP told BBC Newsline the DUP position was "still very important" in terms of parliamentary arithmetic.

On Northern Ireland remaining in the EU's Custom Union, he said it was his party's understanding that was not the UK Government's position.

"We will not accept or agree support to give our support to an outcome that creates a trade barrier between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

"We are part of the UK. It would be contrary to the Belfast Agreement if there were to be a trade barrier between NI and the rest of the UK.

"The United Kingdom as a whole is leaving the EU including the customs union and the single market - that is our position."

Boris Johnson is in a race against the clock to secure a fresh agreement for ahead of the European summit on Thursday.

The Prime Minister has been under increasing pressure to concede greater ground to Brussels, with reports suggesting the UK has dropped a demand that a deal should include a veto for the Stormont Assembly on customs arrangements.

Mr Johnson told senior ministers there was “still a significant amount of work to get there” but a “pathway” to a deal was still visible.

A Cabinet briefing on Brexit has been postponed by Mr Johnson as negotiators continue talks to hammer out a new deal ahead of the October 31 deadline.

Brexit chief negotiator Michel Barnier has said a deal can be clinched within days after the UK Government rejected claims there was not enough time to do a deal.

Speaking on Tuesday morning as he arrived at the General Affairs Council, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said work to secure a deal has been “intense”, after talks which are understood to have gone on until 11pm on Monday.

Mr Barnier said: “Because even if an agreement will be difficult, more and more difficult to be frank, it is still possible this week.”

He added: “Reaching an agreement is still possible. Obviously any agreement must work for everyone, the whole of the United Kingdom and the whole of the European Union.

“Let me add also that it is high time to turn good intentions into a legal text.”

Irish deputy premier Simon Coveney also said “a deal is possible”, maybe even this week, but stressed “we’re not there yet”.

The two-day EU summit is crucial because the PM must get a new deal approved by MPs by Saturday if he is to avoid a clash over asking for a Brexit delay.

The Benn Act passed by MPs opposed to a no deal, including Tory rebels, says he must ask for an extension to Article 50 if MPs do not back a deal by then.

There are fears that a loophole could be used to avoid this, with the PM repeatedly ruling out making the extension request under his “do or die” pledge to get Brexit done by the Halloween deadline.

Labour has threatened court action to force the PM to obey the legislation.

Regardless of the outcome in Brussels, a showdown is anticipated in an emergency sitting of Parliament on Saturday – the first in 37 years – if MPs approve the unusual move.

They will be able to back or reject any deal presented to them, or there will be discussions on what to do next in the Brexit saga.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph