Staunch Brexiteer Jim Allister has called on the DUP to start “considering their position” in propping up Theresa May’s government, saying Northern Ireland has been “stabbed in the back” by the new draft deal with the EU.
Despite previous “tough talk” from Number 10 about making sure the whole UK comes out of the single market and customs union as one, he said the draft agreement leaves the door open for the Province to effectively stay under EU rules.
At the root of the controversy is the idea of a “backstop” – basically, an automatic failsafe scenario for the Irish border which will kick in if no agreement is reached with the EU.
Today’s text states that “a legally-operative version of the backstop solution” should form part of the final Brexit withdrawal agreement – something to be drawn up by October 2018 at the latest.
It goes on to add that such a backstop must be in line with the following condition (already set out in an EU-UK joint statement in December): that in “the absence of agreed solutions, the UK will maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union which, now or in the future, support North-South co-operation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement”.
Mr Allister, TUV MLA for North Antrim, said: “Since the backstop is really the position that the Irish want, and it cuts us off from the rest of the UK, I don’t see now how there’s any incentive [for Dublin] to negotiate anything else.”
He recalled that Theresa May last month said that any agreement to place Great Britain and Northern Ireland under different customs regimes with different rules and regulations was a threat to the Union, and “no UK prime minister could ever agree to it”.
But in light of the draft deal published today, Mr Allister said: “I think we’ve been stabbed in the back.”
He said: “I think the party of unionism which has the government at the end of a string should be considering their position.
“I think they need to know that the backstop will never be the final position, otherwise why would they keep this government in place?”