‘DUP have sway over Tories on Brexit? Now is time to prove it’

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has said the DUP must use whatever leverage it has on the Government to ensure the backstop proposal does not become part of the Brexit divorce deal.

Mr Swann said Arlene Foster’s party has “repeatedly bragged about the enormous power and influence” they have over Theresa May, adding: “If they have any, now would be a good time to demonstrate it, and fast.”

Robin Swann

Robin Swann

Warning that the backstop threatens the integrity of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland’s place within it, the North Antrim MLA said: “Arlene Foster and the people around her need to explain what they are going to do about it now that it looks like the disastrous backstop might be part of a final agreement between the UK Government and the EU.

“The time for DUP bluster, chest beating and hand wringing has long gone. They were supposed to be in the driving seat but it looks like they fell asleep at the wheel.”

Meanwhile, UUP MEP Jim Nicholson called on Downing Street and the DUP to go back to the drawing board over the backstop.

He said the inclusion of the contingency plan in last December’s agreement has been a “millstone around the neck” of the negotiations.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann

“It is being used by the Irish Government and the EU negotiating team as a means to undermine the Belfast Agreement and the principle of consent with the Taoiseach launching repeated verbal assaults,” he added.

“If this is allowed to proceed it will be disastrous for Northern Ireland and our position in the United Kingdom.

“Instead of facilitating the backstop, the government should make clear that the EU needs to move its position on the backstop so that we can achieve a sensible deal for the benefit of all our people.”