The DUP has rounded once again on beleaguered Theresa May over the threat of Brexit to the Union, citing ongoing Tory and Labour criticism of the draft deal with the EU.
Smarting from critics, the prime minister vowed in a television interview to return to Brussels this week to improve the text.
Meanwhile the DUP, which currently props up her minority government, warned her and others that the stark choice facing the UK is between the current “very bad deal” and the “right deal”.
The DUP said on Sunday that weekend statements and comments from leading UK politicians and further detailed analysis of the draft Withdrawal Agreement reinforces why unionists from all parts of the UK and across Northern Ireland are uniting to reject the plan.
Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: “The damning criticism expressed by the former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab spelt out how dangerous this Withdrawal Agreement is.
“He says it takes a very predatory approach to Northern Ireland, that the Cabinet was told Northern Ireland will be treated as a third country for regulatory purposes, and that absolutely it threatens the Union.
“These are exactly the reasons why Northern Ireland unionism stands united in opposition to this draft Withdrawal Agreement.”
Mr Dodds continued: “This deal would place a trade border in the Irish Sea, subject us to EU rules without any power to influence or change them and binds us to the EU with no unilateral ability to leave. Indeed, Northern Ireland is part of the EU customs union not the UK’s.
“Even Jeremy Corbyn gets it, although nationalists and republicans here are desperate for him to stop saying it. I understand why some people fear a ‘no deal’ scenario. But the choice is between this very bad deal and the right deal.
“With MPs on all sides of the House pointing to the dangers for the Union of the Withdrawal Agreement, it is clear that it is time to work for a better deal which does not undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom.”
Mr Dodds was speaking after former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab told the BBC that the draft achieved was “fatally flawed” but could be remedied by just “two or three points” being changed.
He said that the Irish backstop plan meant that the UK would remain tied to the EU with no say and no way of independently freeing itself.
“I do think we are being bullied, I do think we are being subjected to what is pretty close to blackmail frankly,” he said.
“I do think there is a point at which, we probably should have done it before, were we just say ‘I’m sorry this is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we cannot accept those dictated terms’.”
He accused Brussels of deliberately trying to wound the UK by pursuing a deal that treated NI differently to the rest of the country.
“There were certainly swirling dark forces in the commission, which you would hear rumbling that NI was the price the United Kingdom must pay for leaving the EU,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mrs May told Sky News said she will visit the European Commission this week to review the deal with president Jean-Claude Juncker.
UK negotiators are already at the EU’s HQ, she said, noting that while the withdrawal agreement has been completed in principle, the next phase of negotiations is on the “future relationship”.
“There is more negotiation taking place,” she said. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.