The Prime Minister’s deal is simply dead, and she should stop trying to flog it.
That was the message from the leader of the UUP, as he added his voice on Wednesday to a chorus of denunciation aimed at her Brexit blueprints.
Party leader Robin Swann said that it represents Theresa May breaking her own word when it comes to the indivisibility of the United Kingdom.
This is a reference to comments made by her in the House of Commons on February 28 this year, when she denounced a document from the EU which set out its interpretation of the statement of common ground which UK and EU had agreed to two months earlier.
Speaking of the kind of backstop arrangement envisaged by the EU, Mrs May told MPs it would “undermine the UK common market and threaten the constitutional integrity of the UK by creating a customs and regulatory border down the Irish sea, and no UK Prime Minister could ever agree to it”. She had added: “I will be making it crystal clear to President Juncker and others that we will never do so.”
Mr Swann said in a statement that despite her promise, “that is exactly what she has done”.
He said: “The legal advice vindicates the concerns the UUP has been expressing for 12 months now. If the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement is allowed to proceed it would see Northern Ireland cast adrift.
“While the Government has been trying to downplay our concerns - even as recently as last week when we met both the Prime Minister and then Cabinet Office officials – the legal advice that was sitting on their desks from the Attorney General tells us we were right to reject this deal because of the damage it could cause to Northern Ireland and its place in the United Kingdom in the long term.
“It is unbelievable that this or any Prime Minister would even consider signing the United Kingdom up to what is on the table at present. It reinforces our position that the backstop should not have been allowed to be included in December 2017 in the first place.
“The Prime Minister should reflect on the damage that has been done to trust by her Government’s approach to this deal. What was the point in them spending the best part of a year saying they shared our concerns, if all the while they were negotiating a deal that contains everything we were concerned about?”
He added: “Just as I warned, if and when it comes to Great Britain fully departing from the EU, at the cost of leaving Northern Ireland behind, there won’t be much thought given that equation by some in the Conservative Party.
“There is no point in the Prime Minister continuing to flog this dead deal. It is pitiful that the legal advice had to be dragged out by Parliament. Is this Government determined on death by a thousand cuts?
“Running down the clock in a vain attempt to make it a choice between a bad deal and no deal is totally reckless.”