Belfast Telegraph

Rivals slam DUP support for Boris Johnson's unlawful Westminster proroguing

DUP leader Arlene Foster iwith deputy leader Nigel Dodds (left) and MP Jeffrey Donaldson
DUP leader Arlene Foster iwith deputy leader Nigel Dodds (left) and MP Jeffrey Donaldson
Protesters calling for Parliament to be recalled shout outside the Supreme Court
Lady Hale delivers the ruling
Speaker John Bercow
Campaigner Gina Miller celebrates
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has accused the DUP of a serious lack of judgment for backing Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament.

And he challenged the party to put its alternative to the backstop on the table.

"Instead of bombastic rhetoric, we need solutions that will remove the uncertainty," Mr Swann said last night.

Alliance leader Naomi Long also rounded on the DUP following the Supreme Court's ruling that the Prime Minister's decision to prorogue Parliament was unlawful.

"Senior DUP representatives, including Arlene Foster and Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said previously the prorogation of Parliament was democratic and entirely sensible," Mrs Long said.

"They will have been left embarrassed by today's ruling that it was unlawful and it once again must call into question their party's propping up of the Tory Government."

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill said the Supreme Court ruling represented another "meltdown moment" for the Government.

But DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds insisted that while the Government must abide by the ruling, it didn't change the overall political landscape.

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Lady Hale delivers the ruling

He said his party's MPs would return to Parliament today to continue to "seek a deal that will allow a sensible and managed exit from the EU".

Mr Dodds accused those "engaged in endless procedural wrangling" of "binding the Prime Minister's hands" and undermining the chances of successful negotiation with Brussels.

"A focus on process is clearly being used by some to frustrate the public who voted to leave the EU and who want to see their will enacted," he added.

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Speaker John Bercow

Mr Dodds said it was impossible to predict when Brexit would occur.

"I think it would be very unwise for anyone to predict, never mind the end of October, what's going to happen next week. I think we're in uncharted territory," he told the BBC.

But the DUP's political opponents said the Supreme Court ruling raised serious questions about the party's judgment. Mr Swann said: "The DUP claimed when Parliament was prorogued that the Prime Minister was well within his rights to do so.

"They were wrong on that. They were wrong on the withdrawal agreement, and they were wrong when Ian Paisley claimed that Leo Varadkar had been 'done over' by the DUP.

"It calls into serious question their judgment."

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Campaigner Gina Miller celebrates

The UUP leader branded the prorogation of Parliament the "biggest mistake" of Mr Johnson's short tenure as Prime Minister.

"It has backfired spectacularly. It has energised his opponents, united former political enemies and has done nothing to ease the path for the UK to leave the EU in an orderly manner," he said.

The Alliance Party said Mr Johnson's position as Prime Minister was untenable.

Mrs Long said: "He is simply unfit to hold the office. This ruling was unprecedented and the fact the Prime Minister acted unlawfully has major consequences."

With a Westminster election looming, the DUP's influence in Parliament was diminishing by the minute, she said. "The party has been out of step with the majority of people, as well as the business and farming communities, in Northern Ireland on the issue of Brexit from the beginning.

"They now seem keen to avoid taking the blame for a disastrous no-deal outcome and may even be rethinking their ludicrous support for Brexit in the first place," Mrs Long added.

Sinn Fein said that while a "farce" was playing out in London, Irish people desperately wanted a deal.

"The British Supreme Court's decision that proroguing Parliament was unlawful underscores the complete and utter disregard Boris Johnson has for the majority of the people of the north who voted to Remain," Mrs O'Neill said.

"This represents more of the chaos, dysfunction and mess that we have come to expect from Westminster, the House of Chaos."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood urged Opposition leaders at Westminster to table a motion of no confidence in "disgraced Prime Minister Boris Johnson".

Mr Eastwood said: "Boris Johnson sought to silence his critics and suspend democratic scrutiny of his Government. He cannot be in office a second longer. If the DUP has any sense of what is right, they will withdraw their support for Johnson as well."

Mr Eastwood continued: "A vote of no confidence will make way for a temporary administration at Westminster that can stop no-deal, protect our economy and at last put the power back to the people in a general election.

"Opposition leaders need to take on the Tories and take out Boris Johnson. Ireland's interests are on the line at Westminster, there is a fight to be had and this is no time to be standing on the sidelines."

TUV leader Jim Allister accused the Supreme Court of a "power grab". He said: "Until now, as far as I'm aware, any restraint on prorogation has been by statute. Today, it was by judg-made law. That is quite a constitutional departure.

"The sense of politicking was conveyed by the statement 'the effect on the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme'. Really! I'd have thought the far greater effect on 'the fundamentals of our democracy' was the determined efforts - of which this legal challenge was part - by Remainer politicians and acolytes to thwart the people's democratic decision to leave the EU.

"That is what the past two years of political manoeuvring has been about, nothing else. Now, the Supreme Court has diminished itself by taking sides."

Green Party leader Clare Bailey welcomed the Supreme Court's decision and said a second referendum was "the only way forward in the face of this time of constitutional crisis and unprecedented division".

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