Belfast Telegraph

Secretary of State 'not speaking for PM' after ruling out Unionist Brexit veto

Julian Smith (Rebecca Black/PA)
Julian Smith (Rebecca Black/PA)
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Julian Smith wasn't speaking for the Prime Minister when he ruled out a unionist veto for Brexit deal plans, Downing Street sources have said.

Mr Smith made the comments on BBC's The View programme on Thursday evening.

No 10 sources said that when he made the comments he had not been briefed on the talks between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar earlier in the day.

The Cabinet minister said that no one community in Northern Ireland would have a veto over Brexit proposals.

He said that he had taken "great heart" from the "positive" meeting between Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar on Thursday.

Reports suggested the Taoiseach and Prime Minister negotiated what is being described as a "pared down" free trade agreement which would effectively create a border in the Irish Sea.

DUP Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson said his party would not consider any deal that included Northern Ireland staying in the EU customs union.

“We won’t be agreeing to that if that is what is being discussed,” he told the Financial Times.

Mr Smith's comments come after speculation he could be set to quit the cabinet over the threat of a no-deal Brexit.

The report was the second time Mr Smith was rumoured to be considering quitting in as many months.

The Secretary of State told The View that he had not considered resigning in September, contrary to reports.

Mr Smith also did not deny that a Northern Ireland only referendum was being considered to put any Brexit deal to the people.

"The key thing is we have to have regard to the Good Friday Agreement and have regard to the need to have a cross-community approach to how we resolve this," he said.

Mr Smith also said that he had not considered calling a border poll on Irish unity.

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