DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has warned that a proposed solution to the Northern Ireland backstop reportedly being discussed by UK and EU officials “cannot work”.
Reports from Brussels suggested Boris Johnson has revived a compromise Brexit plan which would see Northern Ireland remain politically in a customs union with the EU, but that it would be administered by the UK.
However Mr Dodds said such a scheme would not be acceptable to the DUP whose votes would almost certainly be needed if Mr Johnson was to get a deal through Parliament.
“Northern Ireland must stay in a full UK customs union, full stop,” he told the Italian La Repubblica newspaper.
“There is a lot of stuff coming from Brussels, pushed by the Europeans in the last hours, but one thing is sure: Northern Ireland must remain fully part of the UK customs union. And Boris Johnson knows it very well.”
He added: “It cannot work because Northern Ireland has to remain fully part of the UK customs union.”
Will of parliament
Meanwhile, Britain’s Labour party has warned Boris Johnson that it is ready to take action through the courts if he tries to push through a no-deal Brexit against the will of parliament.
Sir Keir Starmer said his party would do “whatever it takes” to prevent the UK leaving the EU at the end of the month without an agreement.
Addressing the Co-operative Party conference in Glasgow, Mr Starmer said that if the British prime minister was unable to secure a deal at next week’s crucial EU summit, he must comply with the so-called Benn Act and seek a further delay.
“If he can’t — or I should say won’t — get a deal we will take whatever steps are necessary to prevent our country crashing out of the EU without a deal,” he said.
“If no deal is secured by this time next week, Boris Johnson must seek and accept an extension. That’s the law. No ifs, no buts.
“And if he doesn’t, we’ll enforce the law — in the courts and in parliament. Whatever it takes, we will prevent a no-deal Brexit.”
Mr Starmer poured scorn on suggestions Mr Johnson could get round the law by accompanying a request for an extension with a second letter to the EU saying he did not really want one.
“That’s the equivalent of attaching a post-it note to divorce papers saying ‘Only kidding’. It’s a ridiculous idea.”
With EU and UK officials continuing to negotiate over the weekend, he said that if Mr Johnson did succeed in getting an agreement, Labour would demand it was put to the public in a fresh referendum.
“If Boris Johnson does manage to negotiate a deal then we will insist that it is put back to the people in a confirmatory vote,” he said.
With parliament set to sit in a special emergency Saturday session at the end of the week, Mr Starmer said it appeared any agreement Mr Johnson was able to negotiate would be “even worse” than Theresa May’s rejected deal.
“No level playing field protections. No customs union. A green light to deregulate. That kind of deal can never be one Labour supports,” he said. – PA/Reuters