DUP confirms it will scupper deal...and Boris warns we’re sailing into iceberg
NORTHERN Ireland’s biggest party has dealt a blow to Theresa May by confirming yesterday that its 10 MPs will oppose her Brexit deal because it threatens to break up the UK.
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster told her party’s annual conference in Belfast that they would also “revisit” the confidence and supply deal, supporting the Conservatives, because of their concerns.
Her threat was a slap in the face for Chancellor Philip Hammond who had pleaded with the DUP and had told delegates in Ulster that the deal was “better than EU membership”.
But there was a much warmer welcome for Brexiteer Boris Johnson. In a barnstorming performance he mocked plans for a new “Ukni”, or United Kingdom Northern Ireland entity to replace Northern Ireland. He also vowed to defend the Union.
In uncompromising language, Mrs Foster made it clear she would not be cowed by Downing Street.
Speaking to broadcasters, Mrs Foster warned that the draft Brexit deal would leave the UK “a pitiful and pathetic place”.
Later in her keynote speech, she told members the constitutional implications for the draft EU deal “cannot be ignored”.
“The Democratic Unionist Party has never been afraid to say yes when it is right to do so, nor to say no when required,” she said.
“We do not stand alone on these issues, with a large number of Conservatives – both those who voted Leave and Remain – not persuaded. Even Jeremy Corbyn isn’t buying the sea border.
“This party wants to see a negotiated and orderly withdrawal from the European Union. That has always been our position. We are not campaigning for a no-deal exit nor do we want barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and our neighbours in the Republic. The choice is not between this deal and no deal, despite what the Government spin machine may say.
“The reality is that if we are to secure a better outcome than is currently on offer, then the only option is to look beyond this current draft withdrawal agreement and work for an improved outcome.”
Ms Foster added that the party wants an outcome that does not leave Northern Ireland open to the perils of divergence away from the rest of the UK and one which works to the benefit of all parts of the nation.
“The days and weeks ahead will be challenging. We will continue to work in Parliament to achieve the best possible deal for Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole, guided by our principles and objectives.” Meanwhile, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, one of the party’s 10 MPs, told the Prime Minister it is not too late to bin her deal. He insisted the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is “non-negotiable”.
“It is still not too late for the Prime Minister to change course,” he said. “Don’t believe the propaganda that it’s too late – it isn’t. The DUP wants a deal with the EU, we understand that businesses, families and communities want certainty. But it is not this deal. It is not a deal at any price. The Prime Minister used to say that. We still say that. So Prime Minister, the message from this conference, from every section of this party is – bin the backstop.” Earlier, Mr Johnson, who resigned as foreign secretary over Mrs May’s Chequers plans, was cheered as he vowed to protect the Union.
He said the EU had achieved a “very clever trick” by making Northern Ireland an “indispensable bargaining chip” in future negotiations, noting the reference to the potential need to label goods from Northern Ireland UK (NI) under the backstop proposal.
“Indeed if you read the withdrawal agreement, you can see that we are witnessing the birth of a new country called Ukni,” he said. “Ukni is no longer exclusively ruled by London or Stormont. Ukni is, in large part, to be ruled by Brussels. And Ukni will have to accept large swathes of EU regulations now and in the future.
“On lawnmower noise, on the labelling of sardines, on the use of coins and tokens that may be deemed to resemble a euro.
“And on the use of personal recreational watercraft. And nowhere has a more illustrious history than Northern Ireland when it comes to the creation of recreational watercraft. The Titanic springs to mind, and now is the time to point out the iceberg ahead.”
Mr Hammond brought the Treasury’s Project Fear message to the conference. He warned that a no-deal Brexit would unleash “economic chaos”, adding: “If the meaningful vote is lost we are in uncharted territory. We will be faced with potential economic chaos. I am sure we would get a very negative reaction from the business community, from investors, from the markets.”
POWERFUL: Arlene Foster warned Theresa May, while Boris Johnson attacked Brussels at the DUP conference in Belfast yesterday