‘May has resorted to smoke and mirror tactics,’ says MP

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday December 5, 2018. Photo credit should read: PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday December 5, 2018. Photo credit should read: PA Wire

Theresa May’s suggestion that Parliament could be given the power to decide whether the UK triggers the controversial Brexit backstop arrangement has been dismissed as “smoke and mirrors” by a DUP MP.

Sammy Wilson said the move by the prime minister was a sign of “total desperation” as she ramps up efforts to win support for her flagging withdrawal agreement ahead of the crunch vote in the Commons next Tuesday – a showdown Mrs May made clear she would not postpone.

Speaking on BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, Mrs May indicated MPs would choose between implementing the backstop or extending a transition period after the UK formally quits the EU.

But DUP Brexit spokesperson Mr Wilson said the comments were “not becoming” of the PM and accused her of “taking MPs for a bunch of patsies”.

He told the News Letter: “This is nothing but smoke and mirror tactics. She is growing more untrustworthy by the day.

“The PM knows that once the withdrawal agreement is in place, Parliament has no say about the backstop.

“The introduction of the backstop will be a legally binding arrangement as a result of the agreement, and the ending of the backstop is the responsibility of the EU, as they have the power to block it.

“Lets assume parliament did have the ability to decide when the backstop would start; she can’t bind any future prime minister as to what they would do. She is making promises she can’t keep.

“Also, if Parliament was faced with a choice of extending the transition period, which would mean the whole of the UK would stay fully in the EU and make a budget contribution of whatever the EU decided, with no rebate, do you honestly think any parliament is going to vote for that over the backstop?

“This is total desperation. She will say anything to try and get this deal over the line.

“It shows she does not listen. We have explained to her that the only way she is going to change people’s minds is to change the agreement.”

The backstop, intended to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland, is highly controversial as Brexiteer MPs claim it traps the UK into obeying rules set by Brussels without a say over them.

The government says it aims to conclude a comprehensive trade deal with the EU before a backstop arrangement would be needed.

Meanwhile, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier reiterated that the agreement with Mrs May was the only deal on offer.