DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said it would be “negligent” if his party failed to spell out the “consequences” for Theresa May of breaking her “promises” to keep the integrity of the UK intact.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster this afternoon, Mr Wilson restated a “warning” to the Prime Minister that she cannot count on DUP votes in Parliament without sufficient reassurances that there will be no Irish Sea border.
He framed the future of the Brexit negotiations as a “choice” between Northern Ireland remaining aligned with the UK or becoming aligned instead with the EU.
“It’s not a dangerous strategy, it’s where we have always said we would be,” Mr Wilson told BBC’s TalkBack programme. “The Prime Minister has made certain promises about the Brexit negotiations and keeping the integrity of the United Kingdom. Michel Barnier is demanding that the United Kingdom be broken up as the price of any Brexit deal with the UK government.
“We have made it clear that as a unionist party we will not accept that.”
The East Antrim MP continued: “And by the way, it’s not just a strategy which we are following. We have got considerable support within the Conservative party who are appalled, first of all, at the fact that the government ever agreed to the nonsense of a backstop for the Irish border, a problem which isn’t even a problem anyway. And secondly that she has been prepared to even contemplate some of the suggestions which have been made by the European Union which would have laws in Northern Ireland still made in Brussels, would have the adjudication of those laws made by the European Court of Justice, and which would have the EU determininig whether or not we could take part in any future trade deals the United Kingdom would enter.”
The East Antrim MP also addressed a frequent criticism of the DUP’s Brexit red lines.
He explained why his party were content with Northern Ireland’s existing divergence with the rest of the UK on certain issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, but not on the customs divergence suggested by the EU.
“Those different laws are as a result of the fact that certain things are devolved to Nortehrn Ireland, just as certain things are devolved to Wales and Scotland,” he said. “But that’s done within the constitutional arrangements of the United Kingdom. The different laws which we would finish up with if we go down the track that the EU wants us to go down would be laws awhich are made by Brussels, without any input from the people of Northern Ireland, without consideration of the impact that they have on Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland firms.
“That’s the difference.” He added: “The choice is that we stay within the United Kingdom and benefit from the future arrangements that the United Kingdom has, or else go with the EU plan which would have us in the situation where our laws are made in Brussels, we don’t have input into those laws, and also we are excluded from the agreements which our biggest trading partner GB would make.”
Asked about the consequences of a vote against Theresa May’s budget, Mr Wilson said: “The next couple of weeks are going to be crucial. We have warned the government of the consequences if they break their promises that the United Kingdom will not be broken up and that Northern Ireland will not be treated as part of the EU.
“What we do know is what the EU negotiators have said is their bottom line. We also know that the government is talking about that bottom line. Our view is that they shouldn’t even be considering it.
“It would be negligent of us not to spell out that there would be consequences if the agreement which was made with us is broken by the government.”