DUP can’t support Theresa May deal which gives NI no say in EU laws, says Nigel Dodds

Speaker after speaker from the DUP conference platform on Saturday did little to disguise the open rift which now lies between the party and Theresa May.

The most significant voice to do so was Nigel Dodds who as the DUP’s Westminster leader is a key point of contact with the government.

Deputy Leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds speaking during the DUP annual conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast.

Deputy Leader of the DUP Nigel Dodds speaking during the DUP annual conference at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Belfast.

Mr Dodds was particularly scathing about the situation which has developed on the prime minister’s watch.

The North Belfast MP set out a withering view of Mrs May’s Brexit deal, saying that it “portrays a pitiful and pathetic place for the United Kingdom” with no say for the UK over many EU rules and a backstop which would put Northern Ireland under “swathes of EU laws with no say for anyone in Belfast or London”.

Mr Dodds went further, accusing Mrs May of having ignored the DUP’s private “advice” not to agree to the backstop proposals last December.

He said: “Back in December we advised the prime minister not to sign up to such a deal but she went ahead. And the provisos we secured and she entered into then.... she is now casting aside.”

The most generous comment about Mrs May from the platform on Saturday came from Arlene Foster, who said: “I want to acknowledge the hard work and determined efforts of the prime minister to secure an agreement.

“I believe she is genuine when she says she wants to see an outcome that does no harm to the Union and the internal market of the United Kingdom.”

However, even that mild support was followed by sharp criticism, with Mrs Foster saying that the draft agreement “fails her own key commitments” and is “not in the national interest”.

Mr Dodds also lashed Dublin for its handling of the situation.

Although he did not name Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, Mr Dodds delivered explicit criticism of them, accusing them of acting in a way which had made a no-deal Brexit more likely.

He said: “There will be those who will continue to exploit Brexit, to try and weaken the Union and to further their own political agendas, but in doing so, they do irreparable damage to the public’s faith in politics and to relationships on these islands.

“Be it those using the hard won peace in Northern Ireland as a political football to thwart or delay Brexit.

“Or those in other jurisdictions, trying to play up their republican credentials in advance of a forthcoming general election. By their actions they do more to advance the possibility of a so called no deal Brexit than anyone.”

The DUP MEP Diane Dodds also denounced the prime minister.

Mrs Dodds, the wife of Nigel Dodds and a fervent Eurosceptic, will lose her job in March as a result of Brexit. She said that Theresa May was now prepared to sign off on a deal which she said no British prime minister could ever sign.

She said that the backstop arrangement for Northern Ireland would mean “more influence for the Irish government than for a Stormont Executive” where ultimately businesses would have to lobby Dublin, not Belfast, if they wanted to secure changes to EU regulations.