Nigel Dodds: Better to cancel Brexit than risk the break-up of the United Kingdom
Nigel Dodds has said he would rather see Brexit cancelled than risk the break-up of the United Kingdom.
The DUP deputy leader said his party would never support anything that puts the Union between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in jeapordy.
His comments came just hours after MPs had once again rejected Theresa May's Brexit deal, and are a huge blow to her hopes of eventually getting the DUP on board.
The party - whose 10 MPs prop up the Prime Minister's minority government - are opposed to the Withdrawal Agreement because of the Irish backstop, the insurance policy designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland.
Speaking to Newsnight political editor Nicholas Watt, Mr Dodds warned his party would be prepared to ditch their support for Brexit if it meant protecting Northern Ireland's position within the UK.
“I would stay in the European Union and remain rather than risk Northern Ireland’s position,” he said. "That’s how strongly I feel about the Union.
"So yes, the answer must be something that works for the whole of the United Kingdom - that’s our first and main priority.”
He added: "We want to see Brexit delivered, we believe the referendum result should be respected and delivered on, but it can’t be at the risk of separating Northern Ireland out from the rest of the United Kingdom."
Speaking after her latest defeat, Mrs May warned MPs they were “reaching the limits of this process”, but she is expected to bring her deal back to the Commons again next week.
The UK now has until 12 April to come up with a viable Brexit plan or risk either a lengthy extension to the Article 50 process or leaving the EU without a deal.
Writing in the Belfast Telegraph earlier today, DUP leader Arlene Foster reconfirmed her opposition to any Brexit plan which included the controversial Irish backstop mechanism.
"I hear the concerns of business and others about the need for certainty,” she said.
“I am listening, but we cannot in all conscience support a Withdrawal Agreement which does not safeguard the Union but rather acts as a threat to the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”