Brexit Backstop pledge written in blood would not be enough: Sammy Wilson

The government could write its pledge to end the backstop within a year “in blood” and it would still not be enough, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman has said.

Sammy Wilson was speaking after the government agreed to impose a statutory “duty” upon itself to make sure the backstop is limited to 12 months.

Sammy Wilson said the amendment was 'well-meaning' but could not do the job it was meant to

Sammy Wilson said the amendment was 'well-meaning' but could not do the job it was meant to

This happened last Wednesday, when Tory MP Hugo Swire moved an amendment to the government’s Brexit plans – an amendment the government accepted.

Among other things it committed the government to adding the following text into its European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018: that the act be approved subject to “legislation making provision that requires ... the government to have a duty to have an agreed future relationship or alternative arrangements one year after the Northern Ireland backstop coming into force ... so that the Northern Ireland backstop ceases to apply”.

MPs have long worried that the backstop would leave NI, and the UK at large, trapped forever under some of the EU’s rules.

Speaking to the News Letter on Wednesday night, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the party would consider the amendment “with interest”.

But now his colleague Mr Wilson has rubbished it, saying the government was signing up to something it could not deliver.

“It wouldn’t matter if 100% of the House of Commons voted to say that within a year the government has to have an agreement with the EU,” said Mr Wilson, MP for East Antrim.

“Having an agreement with the EU is not entirely within the government’s hands – it’s also in the hands of the EU.”

It was akin to him promising to go on holiday with someone even if they did not want to come, he said.

So whilst Hugo Swire was “a very good friend of NI” and his amendment was “well-meaning”, it would merely create “a piece of legislation you’ve no control over delivering”.

He added: “What he’s proposing does not do the job that’s required. You could sign it in blood and it wouldn’t mean anything.”

The main vote on the government’s Brexit plans is expected to be in the Commons on Tuesday.

Mr Wilson concluded that he feels “the government has given up trying to persuade us [the DUP] because they know our position and they know the logic of it”.