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There is still time to find solution to Irish Brexit border issue, insists DUP's Donaldson

Lessons: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
Lessons: Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

By Our Political Staff

Politicians have been urged to "draw on the lessons of the Northern Ireland peace process" by a DUP MP as they struggle to resolve the Irish border issue before Brexit on October 31.

"There is still time for a solution to be found - if there truly is the will," according to Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

Writing in the Sunday Independent, the DUP chief whip insisted that the backstop proposals were in clear conflict with the Belfast Agreement, because they did not have unionist support.

"The lesson of the peace process is that progress can only be made when both unionists and nationalists can give support to an agreement. There is a significant irony in the backstop being held up as protection for the Belfast Agreement when it stands outside both the letter and spirit of that agreement," he wrote.

"The principle of consent and parity of esteem should be seen by all as central to that agreement."

Introducing barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK was unacceptable, he continued.

"It would represent a clear change to the relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, thus breaching the principle of consent," he said.

Meanwhile, sacked former attorney general Dominic Grieve issued a warning to the DUP that neither Prime Minister Boris Johnson nor his Conservative Party could be trusted over Northern Ireland.

Mr Grieve was in Belfast at the weekend to speak at a rally calling for a second referendum on EU membership.

Speaking to the BBC's Sunday Politics, Mr Grieve said that "hanging on to the Prime Minister's coat-tails may be a very damaging thing to do".

"I've often wondered at what point the DUP will find that their vision of the future does not accord with that of some members of my own party - even for the post-Brexit world," the Beaconsfield MP said.

"I can see circumstances in which the desire of some of my Conservative colleagues for a Great Britain free of adherence to European regulations and tariffs would mean they would be prepared to leave Northern Ireland behind in an alternative relationship, for the sake of taking the rest of the UK out.

"It's as simple as that. And I have to say that as a unionist, philosophically, that doesn't make me comfortable at all.

"That said, unionism has to respect the diversity of opinion in Northern Ireland. That's one of the reasons why leaving the EU was such a daft idea."

Mr Johnson has said Britain will break out of the EU's "manacles" like The Incredible Hulk if a Brexit deal cannot be struck by the end of next month. In an interview with the Mail On Sunday, Mr Johnson - who will meet European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Luxembourg this week - likened Britain to fictional scientist Bruce Banner, who transforms into the monstrous green Hulk when he is angry in the Marvel superhero comics and movies.

"Banner might be bound in manacles, but when provoked he would explode out of them...

"Hulk always escaped, no matter how tightly bound in he seemed to be - and that is the case for this country. We will come out on October 31 and we will get it done."

The PM struck a confident tone on reaching a Brexit deal, saying "there's a very, very good conversation going on about how to address the issues of the Northern Irish border. A huge amount of progress is being made."

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