Belfast Telegraph

We don't trust you, DUP tells Prime Minister Theresa May

By Mark Bain

Sammy Wilson has warned Theresa May that the DUP doesn't trust her judgment and that it if she crosses its red line in her efforts to secure a Brexit deal "there'll be consequences".

He was speaking after Conservatives debated whether to call the DUP's bluff as Brexit talks on the Irish border reach a critical point.

And following three days of talks with key figures in Brussels, DUP leader Arlene Foster said the Prime Minister could not in "good conscience" accept the proposals currently on the table from the EU.

Her intervention came as Mrs May met Cabinet ministers in Downing Street to brief them on the progress in the Brexit negotiations.

Yesterday Mr Wilson confirmed his party's abstention on an Agriculture Bill vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday was "a warning to the Government".

The East Antrim MP suggested the next step the party could take would be to vote down the Budget later this month - a move that could bring down Mrs May's administration, which relies on DUP votes for its survival.

However, Conservative MP Helen Blunt said that she believed the DUP was "bluffing" about withholding its support.

And Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the threat of a Jeremy Corbyn-led Labour Government "would be enough to bring the DUP to heel".

He added: "We're in an on-going dialogue with the DUP. I'm sure they will be persuaded the alternatives would not be of benefit."

However, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chairman Andrew Morrison warned that "these guys don't bluff".

Mr Wilson said while DUP votes weren't important on Wednesday, they "would be important some time in the future, and we would have no hesitation withholding it if we thought that was a necessary sanction to impose".

He added: "It was a warning: 'Don't take us for granted. You break your promises and we then don't feel committed to keeping our side of the bargain'. We will have to consider whether or not they have kept their side of the bargain. If they haven't, there'll be consequences."

Mr Wilson said the DUP did not trust Mrs May's "judgment to date, because her judgment to date has been flawed".

"It's been wrong, and if she continues down the road that Michel Barnier wants her to she'll no longer have our support," he warned.

Asked if there was concern about the DUP's threats to withdraw its support, the Prime Minister responded saying "the DUP will do what the DUP will do".

Speaking after her Brussels meeting, Mrs Foster refused to play down the growing rift between her party and the Conservative Government.

"The decisions by Her Majesty's Government and the House of Commons in the coming weeks will be critical," she said.

"Having engaged with many of the EU27 states, it is clear that Northern Ireland will not be offered the so-called 'best of both worlds'.

"Brussels wants Northern Ireland to have access to the EU single market and trade within the rules set by the EU under the European Courts of Justice.

"However, Brussels also wants to place an effective one-way turnstile from Northern Ireland into the rest of the United Kingdom.

"Trade from Great Britain into Northern Ireland would be in danger of restriction.

"Indeed, Northern Ireland's access to any new United Kingdom trade deals would also be regulated by Brussels.

"That is not the best of both worlds. That is the worst of one world.

"The Prime Minister could not in good conscience recommend a deal which places a trade barrier on United Kingdom businesses moving goods from one part of the kingdom to another.

"We will take decisions based on what is best for everyone in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom."

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill accused the DUP of being "reckless" in its deal with the Tories.

"There is an onus on the Irish Government and the EU to ensure the commitments made by the British Government to a legally binding backstop are met as the negotiations reach a critical point," she said.

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said the DUP was "badly letting down Northern Ireland" over the threat to withdraw support for the Budget.

"The DUP are on the wrong page on this. This budget will have the next tranche of 'confidence and supply' money, including considerable funds going to health and educations," she said.

Party colleague Stephen Farry added: "It is hugely irresponsible for Arlene Foster to dress this up as a constitutional crisis when it is patently not."

Belfast Telegraph

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