A senior DUP figure has called on the prime minister to slap down the EU’s latest proposal to address the Irish border post-Brexit.
It comes after Brussels moved to soften its approach to the controversial backstop plan – an “insurance policy” to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The issue has long been at the heart of the withdrawal negotiations, and on Tuesday EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier indicted a shift in tone on the thorny issue.
Outlining his “improved” version of the backstop plan, Mr Barnier stated it would amount to “technical checks” and not a land or sea border.
But DUP Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson urged the prime minister to firmly reject Mr Barnier’s proposal, branding it as “nothing more than a pig in a poke”.
He told the News Letter: “Theresa May should not even be considering this proposal. It is basically the same offer that was on the table before, except it allows for checks somewhere other than at the border.
“The implication is that Northern Ireland has to be treated differently and have different standards from the rest the of UK.
“I am sure the prime minister has seen through this and, as she has already rejected the previous arrangement, I hope she will do the same here.”
Mr Barnier’s latest proposal indicates the EU could be more open to considering technological solutions to managing the Irish border.
Many Brexiteers have long argued that technology can be used to ensure frictionless trade between NI and the Republic.
Insisting Brussels would respect the territorial integrity of the UK, Mr Barnier added: “We are clarifying which goods arriving in Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK would need to be checked and where, when and by whom these checks could be performed.
“We can also clarify that most checks can take place away from the border at the company premises or in the markets. We need to de-dramatise the checks that are needed.”
Mr Wilson claimed the EU diplomat had “shot himself in the foot” by accepting that checks can be carried out using technology.
The East Antrim MP added: “Up until now the EU had always argued that there was no technological solution to this.
“Now Mr Barnier is admitting it is possible to use it between NI and GB, so why can’t it be used on the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
“He has given Brexiteers ammunition and scored an own goal.”
Mr Wilson also gave his backing to remarks made by former foreign secretary Boris Johnson earlier this week, who said the backstop deadlock is being used to force the UK into becoming a vassal state and the talks are on course to end in a “spectacular political car crash” unless Mrs May ditches her plans for the Irish border.
Mr Wilson added: “I agree that the prime minister should tear up her Chequers deal and go back to the drawing board. That plan is not what the prime minister promised she would deliver for the people of the UK.”