The DUP is engaging in “tactical tricks” at Westminster as it props up the government, a prominent Conservative MP has said.
Dominic Grieve, speaking in Northern Ireland (see link to main report below), said that he supported the Conservative and DUP arrangement to sustain a government but he could not understand the DUP’s strategy.
In a section of his address to an Ulster Unionist Party dinner that prompted the audience to break into sustained applause, Mr Grieve referred to the gridlock over Brexit:
“It must be possible for you to represent [Northern Ireland’s] interest just as the Scottish National Party does but I am afraid to say that the Democratic Unionist Party – I am grateful to them for shoring the government up and I have no criticism to make of the government for the inevitability of having to have done a deal with them – but I am left utterly uncomprehending in what their strategy is [murmurs of approval and ‘hear hear’ from the audience].
“It seems to be entirely based on a series of tactical tricks, which has no long-term benefit for the future of Northern Ireland or indeed, as far as I can see, for the future of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom [cries of hear hear and loud applause].”
Mr Grieve, who is firmly opposed to Brexit, was speaking in Belfast at the end of last week, shortly after he withdrew his threat to rebel from the government on a key amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
In his address at Titanic Hotel, he said: “The problem I suppose is that time is running short, and I can’t rule out the possibility of we get into the spring and when we get into the spring we may face a crisis.
“But I do have a quiet confidence that the old United Kingdom ship of state may sort of be in choppy waters and take water on board and list a bit but I do think the self-righting mechanisms are there.
“I have a quiet optimism that rationality will prevail, and the storm and irrationality that we have at the moment will eventually pass.”
The Beaconsfield MP continued: “It would be so good if you could contribute to that as well by getting a working Executive to represent your interests.
“Now I know speaking to you in the audience ... you will turn round and say well it’s not our fault – and it isn’t yours – but any pressure that can be exercised to try and get that done is clearly going to be helpful because the voice of Northern Ireland must be heard in this.
“We need to get ourselves into a position where we can build up a real head of steam and there are lots of other people in Great Britain who are working to try and do that and to try and introduce some rational discourse.
“My own party is willing to talk to many political parties, which is one of the reasons why I actually had no difficulty in coming to talk to you this evening.”