Belfast Telegraph

Ways to deal with backstop but it can't be harder to get out of it than EU, says DUP's Dodds after Prime Minister meeting

PM in 'listening mode' and not in position to offer solution, says MP

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP has said there is a way forward for the Prime Minister to solve the Brexit conundrum and that's to deal with the backstop in a "meaningful and satisfactory way".

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds met with the Prime Minister on Thursday morning. They said there was a way forward for Theresa May but stopped short of saying the backstop should be binned altogether.

They described the meeting as "useful".

Northern Ireland Affairs select committee chair Andrew Murrison - in a BBC The View interview - has suggested the DUP is more flexible in private than they are in public and they were considering "all sorts of things". It has been mooted the party would accept a time limit to the so-called insurance policy. MP Gavin Robinson said it was one possible option but the primary concern was maintaining the Union of the UK.

Emerging from the meeting at Downing Street, the DUP leader said the issue of the Irish backstop needed to be dealt with “in a very clear way” if Brexit negotiations are to make progress. She said during the meeting they made a "clear ask" of Mrs May for the backstop to be dealt with.

Asked if Theresa May pledged to go to Brussels and tell EU officials to drop the backstop Nigel Dodds said the Prime Minister was not in a position to offer solutions as she was in "listening mode".

"There were 118 of Conservative MPs who voted against the deal so she has a job of work to do," he told the BBC.

"No doubt she will come back to us on that but not today."

He added: "We want to find a deal, we want to help her out"

The North Belfast MP said the reason why the withdrawal agreement was so resoundingly rejected was down to the "indefinite nature" of the backstop.

"There is no unilateral right for the UK to leave... the backstop is something that will not get through the House of Commons."

It was put to Mr Dodds the DUP are more "flexible" on the backstop privately than they were in public following Dr Murrison's comments.

"There are a range of ways of dealing with the backstop, which prevents it from becoming an all-weather, indefinite trap for the UK," he said.

"The key is - we all agree, well those of us who are sensible - you can't have a situation where it is harder to get out of the backstop than it is to get out of the EU.

"We want to get a deal, we want to try and find a way," he said.

"Let us realise the problem with the Irish backstop is the insistence that we have this solution to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

"The problem is the backstop would trap the UK, trap Northern Ireland... we would be rule takers."

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