The DUP has warned that the draft Brexit deal will give the Irish Republic and the EU authority over the affairs of Northern Ireland “ad infinitum” and will “water down” the role of the Province’s MPs at Westminster.
Theresa May is tomorrow expected to meet business leaders from Northern Ireland who back the proposed accord.
But her government faces calls from her erstwhile DUP allies to take into account contrary opinions in the region.
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley fielded stiff criticism from DUP members of her scrutiny committee at Westminster yesterday.
Strangford MP Jim Shannon told the committee his party rejected the Northern Ireland secretary’s argument that any backstop would only apply for a short period of time.
“We see the long term of this and it is something we can’t agree to,” he told the committee.
Mrs Bradley said there was “no way” the UK would be left in a backstop indefinitely, if it comes into effect.
She said: “I am convinced that the safeguards put in place, the reassurances given, the way that the EU dislike the backstop, means as a legal construct, not as a person or country, there is no way that there will be a situation where we can be bound into the backstop indefinitely.”
Mr Shannon accused the NI secretary of only seeking the opinion the government wants to hear on its withdrawal plan.
“If you don’t cast your net wider and seek opinions of other people and stop seeking the one blinkered opinion, which it is clear to me that some people are pursuing, then you are going to get a very rude awakening,” he said.
Mrs Bradley responded that she had “not shied away from anybody or any viewpoint”, adding: “We have a difference of opinion, but I am not going to shy away from explaining my opinion.”
The DUP has found itself at odds with many of the Province’s farming and business leaders, who have given the draft agreement a cautious welcome.
But Mr Shannon, a member of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU), told the committee that his opinion had not been sought by the organisation.
He told Mrs Bradley: “I want you to realise there is a large body of opinion in the UFU, across the business community and the unionist population of Northern Ireland who are diametrically opposed to what is being put in this withdrawal agreement.”