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Thursday 7 December 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Leah Farrell via DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson
brexit deal

DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson says 'we are facing no deal' if EU doesn't compromise on backstop

Speaking yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK will “do a new deal, a better deal”.

LAST UPDATE | Jul 25th 2019, 8:21 PM

DUP MP JEFFREY Donaldson has said if the EU doesn’t compromise in relation to Brexit then “we are facing no deal”. 

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland, Donaldson outlined that the DUP wants Britain to leave the EU with a deal. 

“We don’t want to get a no deal outcome but to be clear, if that’s the choice that Brussels makes, if Brussels decides it’s not going to compromise in any way whatsoever then we’re facing no deal and that will have consequences for the economy north and south and we need to be talking about it in that context,” Donaldson said.

However, he added that the party is “not prepared to take no deal off the table at this stage”. 

“We know that is the strongest lever the UK government has in its negotiations with Brussels,” Donaldson said.

“Why on earth would the UK government give up its strongest bargaining chip at this vital stage in the negotiating process,” he said.

So, no we’re not going to vote to take no deal off the table but again, to be clear, we want to leave with a deal, that’s what we’re working towards.

Donaldson said that achieving a deal is “down to all the governments” involved in the situation, not just the House of Commons. 

He said this can be done by “Irish government being pragmatic and being willing to compromise in a way that protects all our interests, protects the Good Friday Agreement, protects the institutions of that agreement and avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland and does not create a new border in the Irish sea”. 

‘No ifs, no buts’

Donaldson was speaking after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to leave the EU by the Brexit deadline of 31 October during his first speech in his new role yesterday.

“The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts,” Johnson said.

The doubters, the doomsters are going to get it wrong again…We are going to come out of the EU on October 31 – no ifs, no buts. We will do a new deal, a better deal that will maximise the opportunities.

“I have every confidence that in 99 days time, we will have cracked it. But do you know what, we’re not going to wait 99 days because the British people have had enough of waiting.”

Reacting to Johnson’s comments, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said his suggestions that a new Brexit deal can be negotiated was “totally not in the real world”. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Six One, Varadkar said Johnson’s ideas are “clear cut but certainly not detailed”. 

Varadkar said he wants to hear Johnson put some “flesh on the bones” of the comments he made during his speech earlier today, adding that ”confidence and enthusiasm were not a substitute for a European policy or a foreign policy”.

Meanwhile, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned Member States that Johnson’s ideas are “unacceptable”. 

“PM Johnson has stated that if an agreement is to be reached it goes by way of eliminating the backstop. This is of course unacceptable and not within the mandate of the European Council,” Barnier wrote, in an email to EU ambassadors seen by AFP.

Earlier, in his first appearance before the House of Commons as prime minister, Johnson had used the same word, “unacceptable”, to describe the Brexit withdrawal agreement signed by his predecessor. 

Barnier, in his message to the other 27 member states, noted the “combative” tone of Johnson’s speech, but noted that he has no mandate from the 27 EU leaders to renegotiate the deal.

And he warned that Johnson’s decision to focus Britain’s efforts on planning for a “no deal” Brexit on October 31 could be an attempt “to heap pressure on the unity of the EU27.”

“No deal will never be the EU’s choice, but we all have to be ready for all scenarios,” Barnier wrote.

Similar to Barnier’s comments, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tole Johnson today that EU officials have no mandate to renegotiate the Brexit withdrawal agreement. 

The pair spoke on the phone this afternoon. 

“President Juncker listened to what Prime Minister Johnson had to say, reiterating the EU’s position that the Withdrawal Agreement is the best and only agreement possible – in line with the European Council guidelines,” Juncker’s spokeswoman said after the call.

‘This is not easy’

Echoing Varadkar’s comments yesterday evening, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys said she wants to hear what suggestions Johnson has in relation to the Irish border post-Brexit. 

“We have to work to find solutions. And that’s why we’re talking to the commission. And I said … this is difficult. This is not easy,” Humphreys told Morning Ireland. 

“Trying to unravel here, years of the people and businesses doing business across the border, and also on an east-west basis with the UK but particularly on the border. And it is going to be extremely difficult,” she said. 

“That’s why Boris Johnson saying ‘Oh, we can we can sort this out’, well we want to hear what he has to say. We need to hear his suggestions and what he is proposing, because there’s no point in saying we can sort of they’re putting meat on the bone.”

With reporting by © AFP 2019  

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