Fri, 28 January 2022

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Huge blow for Boris Johnson as DUP says it cannot support his Brexit deal

Huge blow for Boris Johnson as DUP says it cannot support his Brexit deal
3 min read

Boris Johnson's hopes of winning MPs' support for his Brexit agreement have been dealt a huge blow after the DUP announced it will not vote for it.

The party said the deal would damage Northern Ireland's economy and "undermine the integrity of the Union".

It means the Prime Minister is unlikely to get the 320 votes he needs to pass the deal when it is debated by MPs at a special sitting of the Commons on Saturday.

The DUP's decision came despite days of intensive negotiations between the party and Number 10.

Mr Johnson has described the agreement as "a great new deal" which delivers on the result of the 2016 referendum.

But the DUP said they were unhappy about its proposals on customs checks between Britain and Northern Ireland, VAT rates and how Stormont gives its consent to the new arrangements.

The party's statement said: "The Democratic Unionist Party has worked since the referendum result to secure a negotiated deal as we leave the European Union. 

"We have been consistent that we will only ever consider supporting arrangements that are in Northern Ireland’s long-term economic and constitutional interests and protect the integrity of the Union.

"These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union."

Under the terms of the proposed deal, Northern Ireland would remain in the UK's customs territory, but would still follow EU rules on tariffs and quotas in order to avoid a hard border with Ireland.

That would mean the implementation of a customs border in the Irish Sea - something Mr Johnson has previously ruled out and which the DUP had said they would never accept.

The Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont would also have to give its consent to the new arrangements every four years.

But the DUP said: "While some progress has been made in recognising the issue of consent, the elected representatives of Northern Ireland will have no say on whether Northern Ireland should enter these arrangements.

"The Government has departed from the principle that these arrangements must be subject to the consent of both unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland.  These arrangements would be subject to a rolling review but again the principles of the Belfast Agreement on consent have been abandoned in favour of majority rule on this single issue alone. 

"These arrangements will become the settled position in these areas for Northern Ireland. This drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast Agreement.

"For all of these reasons it is our view that these arrangements would not be in Northern Ireland’s long term interests. Saturday’s vote in Parliament on the proposals will only be the start of a long process to get any Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons."

Meanwhile, Tory Brexiteers also raised doubts about whether they will vote for the deal.

Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said he was "reserving my position", while Bernard Jenkin described the DUP as "the canary in the coalmine", suggesting he may also vote against it.

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