The DUP has described proposals by a group of Brexiteer Tory rebels on how to solve the Irish border issue as “positive and timely”.
The European Research Group (ERG), consisting of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, have unveiled their alternative plan to rival Theresa May’s Chequers deal.
The paper, published yesterday, was welcomed by DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who said it “accurately reflects the fact the border issue is no impediment to the negotiation by the UK of a comprehensive trade deal with the EU”.
The North Belfast MP added: “The paper makes clear that, in the event of a free trade deal being negotiated with the EU, there are sensible practical measures which can ensure there will be no hard border.”
Mr Dodds said his party firmly believes a deal is possible which “respects the referendum result and also ensures we continue to have a good relationship” with the Republic.
While Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann also welcomed the ERG’s proposals, he warned: “I worry that the language in its report on initial full alignment between Northern Ireland (as opposed to the whole of the UK) and the Republic leaves the door open to a regulatory border down the Irish Sea.
“While this might not be intentional, I fear any hint that backbench Brexiteers might allow such a situation to arise will be music to Michel Barnier’s ears.”
Meanwhile, SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said the proposals were “less about a pragmatic solution to the border and more about Tory in-fighting”.
She added: “If Tory Brexiteers had any deep interest in protecting NI, other than merely appeasing the DUP, they would recognise the democratic will of the people who voted to remain.
“ERG know too well that their proposals fall far short of what will be agreed by the EU. More than that, they fail to include any real substance as to how their proposals can be achieved.
“The writing has been on the wall for some time and written in bold; those ignoring the obvious are storing up major problems for the future.”