The DUP has not joined in the chorus of Brexiteer denunciation of the Cabinet’s Chequers agreement, in what may hint at a willingess to accept much closer ties with the EU than the party would like in exchange for no border in the Irish Sea.
The DUP campaigned for Brexit, seconded two of its staff to run the Vote Leave campaign in Northern Ireland and has in its ranks some of Parliament’s most ardently outspoken Eurosceptics.
However, some of the party’s most senior figures privately backed Remain in the referendum and it is acutely aware of how destabilising the process of leaving the EU has been for the Union.
The party’s Westminster leader, Nigel Dodds, issued a statement on Saturday which in large part welcomed what had come out of Chequers because it involved a government commitment “to the political and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom with no borders between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom”, something he described as “a welcome reaffirmation of what is an absolute priority for us”.
Mr Dodds, who was a director of Vote Leave, the official pro-Brexit campaign, said it was now clear that all of the UK would leave the UK together, adding: “Republicans may be disappointed as they tried their best to seize this as an opportunity to weaken the Union.”
The North Belfast MP said the DUP’s “top priority” was protecting the Union but that on Brexit the government had to deliver “control of our borders, our laws and our money” while still retaining “sensible relationships” with EU countries.
He added: “We will be examining and measuring the fine print of the White Paper due to be published next week against these clear objectives. We will be meeting the government to discuss those details.”
Fellow DUP MP Sammy Wilson similarly did not attack the Chequers blueprint, hailing it as “another step towards Britain breaking Brussels’ bonds”. But Mr Wilson, a fervent Brexiteer, did however add: “It is important that our ability to strike trade deals across the growing parts of the world’s economy is not impaired and we are able to take an independent stance in those institutions which deal with liberalising trade.”