DUP sidesteps criticism from Lord Nigel Dodds, Lord Maurice Morrow and Sammy Wilson MP, who say Irish Sea Border remains - Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly defends deal in BBC interview
and live on Freeview channel 276
In Saturday's News Letter the party's chairman Lord Maurice Morrow, Lord Nigel Dodds and East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson published an essay which was critical of the ‘Safeguarding the Union’ deal delivered recently by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Secretary of State Chris Heaton-Harris.
The deal was intended to address unionist concerns about the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol damaging the Union in trade and constitutional terms.
The DUP has now returned to Stormont after a two-year boycott over the matter, in light of the deal. But some senior figures have openly criticised the deal in the Commons and the Lords, and now in the pages of the News Letter.
In an article entitled ‘The Battle Goes On – No Surrender’, the trio said they do not share the view of those in the DUP who believe the Irish Sea border has been dealt with. They added: “There can be no dispute about it, there is still a border in the Irish Sea.”
While welcoming the smoothing of some trade restrictions and ‘confidence building measures’ secured by their party – they say the protocol/Windsor Framework “is still intact and that the EU still holds a grip on significant areas of our economic life.”
The News Letter asked the party leadership today, Sunday, if there was any response to the essay, but the party declined to comment.
However, the party's Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly was quizzed about the essay on BBC One’s ‘Sunday Politics’ show.
Presenter Mark Carruthers asked her how the fledgling Stormont executive is in the medium to long term “when your own party is so clearly divided on the way forward?”.
He added: “You will know three senior DUP figures Sammy Wilson, and Lord Dodds and Morrow, wrote a piece in the News Letter saying that despite reassurances from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the Irish Sea border remains in place and the DUP seven tests haven’t been met?”
Ms Little-Pengelly responded: “Look, people will come to their own conclusions and their own views. But it is as simple as this: the DUP party executive, a significant body, has made a decision and that decision was based on the very very detailed presentation of all of these matters that took place over a significant number of hours.
“That decision has been made, and that was made on the basis that Sir Jeffrey achieved a significant number of things in relation to this proposal and this deal, and that included protecting and ensuring unfettered, internal UK trade.”
She said the DUP party executive – including all peers and elected members – backed “a good and fair deal Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has achieved”.
“Jeffrey has been very clear – did he achieve everything that he sought to achieve? No. But no negotiation is ever perfect and there is more yet to do. But what he has achieved is significant; it is significantly more than most people thought that he could have achieved.
“And absolutely critical to that is that he has achieved the unfettered free flow of trade internal to this United Kingdom, and he's removed the barriers to that. And that was an absolutely key issue.”
Mr Carruthers countered: “It sounds like you're not even saying the seven tests have been met or that the Irish Sea border has gone, which is interesting?”
Ms Little-Pengelly replied that she could not go into detail due to time constraints, but added that she can go through all seven tests and point to “where we have significant change”.
But the presenter challenged her choice of words: “Significant change is not the same as delivering the seven tests.”
Meanwhile, TUV leader Jim Allister commended the essay at a TUV dinner in Lurgan on Saturday night. He noted that the trio “rightly say” that in some 300 areas, EU jurisdiction “remains fully in force” through hundreds of foreign laws.
He added that the deal fails to restore NI’s place in the UK, leaves NI under a customs code which decrees GB a foreign country, and fails to remove the Irish Sea border.