Opposition among Tory MPs to the Irish backstop is growing by the day, Nigel Dodds has said.
The DUP deputy leader was speaking to the News Letter after his party’s conference concluded at the weekend, and just before the EU 27 countries yesterday approved the Withdrawal Agreement that enshrines the border backstop, that in effect keeps Northern Ireland in the EU single market and the whole UK in a customs union with the EU.
Mr Dodds, who is MP for North Belfast, said: “I am picking up strongly a growing swelling of opinion against the Theresa May proposals on the Tory back benches. What you are getting among people who are committed to Remain is that this withdrawal deal is the worst possible deal because we are taking all the rules but have no say.”
He added: “And it all comes down to the backstop because the Brexiteers are absolutely determined that that is the problem that will lock the UK, and possibly Northern Ireland alone, into arrangements which they will never accept.”
Mr Dodds said: “It is a growing number across both wings of the Tory Party. And some people are putting their faith in the Labour Party running to the rescue of the prime minister. I think this deal is actually uniting people against it.”
Yesterday, Theresa May urged MPs to back her Brexit plan as EU leaders signed off on the deal. The prime minister insisted the agreement delivered on the promises of the EU referendum.
After the leaders of the remaining 27 member states, meeting in Brussels, took less than 40 minutes to approve the deal, she said it would be put to MPs before Christmas.
But the challenges Mrs May faces were apparent at the DUP conference in Belfast on Saturday, when the popular Tory MP Boris Johnson got a rapturous reception for a speech in which he called for the backstop to be scrapped.
Arlene Foster MLA, the DUP leader, spoke out against the deal. Mrs Foster also got applause when she apologised over the RHI scandal.