DUP ‘unhappy’ with aspects of May’s Chequers Brexit plan

Theresa May
Theresa May

A veteran DUP man has said his party is “unhappy” with some elements of the Brexit plan agreed by Theresa May’s Cabinet on Friday night.

Sammy Wilson was speaking on Monday morning, after the resignation of David Davis from the Cabinet – a move which came just two days after the Cabinet appeared to present a united front in its backing for May’s plan.

Sammy Wilson in the Commons

Sammy Wilson in the Commons

A number of aspects of the plan have made Brexiteers uneasy.

Whilst it speaks of ending freedom of movement for people, restoring the “supremacy” of UK courts, ultimately giving Parliament the power to decide on incorporating EU rules into UK law, and ensuring Northern Ireland’s place in the UK (which are likely to please many Leavers), it also sets out a vision of “ongoing harmonisation” with EU rules in an EU-UK “free trade area”, paying “due regard” to EU courts, and paying “appropriate contributions” to the EU.

Whilst the DUP press office issued a statement on Saturday which seemed to sound a fairly positive note about what had been agreed, Sammy Wilson has offered a somewhat downbeat assesment.

In the party statement, Nigel Dodds had described the Chequers plan as a “welcome reaffirmation” of Northern Ireland’s place in the UK - something he described as the party’s “top priority” – adding that this would disappoint republicans.

And whilst he said the party will study the fine print of the deal more closely and meet the Tories to discuss it, he also said it was “clear the whole country will leave the EU together”.

Speaking today to RTE Radio, Mr Wilson, long-serving MP for East Antrim, said David Davis’ resignation was “probably inevitable given the details of what she’d put to the cabinet”.

“From the details we’ve seen at present it’d seem first of all we’ll be tied to EU rules now and in the future. Secondly there’d be an input for the European Court of Justice. And thirdly there probably will be a bill to pay to the EU. And I think that in all honesty he couldn’t have kept on supporting that.”

He said that “the drift started” back when the government accepted the timetable which the EU insisted upon.

“The strongest ‘leaver’ the UK had was the budgetary contribution, and that was given away on day one of the negotiations,” he said.

“Having given away some of those important issues at the very start, it was always going to be a very difficult path anyway to deliver the kind of Brexit he wanted, and that we want as well.”

Asked if he would sympathise with a lot of his aims, and the reasons behind his resignation, Mr Wilson said: “Absolutely.

“People in the UK voted to leave the EU, to no longer have the European Court of Justice overruling the Parliament of the UK, to no longer have to make huge contributions to the bloated budget of Brussels, much of which was squandered anyhow, and to be able to make our own rules on who stayed in our country, who came to our country, and what kind of regulations people and businesses in Northern Ireland had to abide by.”

As to whether the DUP would vote to back the Tories, he said: “We haven’t seen the details... on the basis of what were have seen we’re unhappy with those aspects of it.”

However, he indicated that the DUP is “very happy” with some aspects of the plan.

He said that the Irish government has long been insisting on “separate arrangements for Northern Ireland” – a “toxic” idea for unionists – and that Mrs May has made it “very clear” she will not accede to that.