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Deputy DUP leader Nigel Dodds speaking during the DUP annual conference.
Nigel Dodds

DUP: 'It is becoming clearer by the day that no one is ever going to build a border'

The DUP’s deputy leader said that an “east-west barrier should be no more palatable than having any new north-south barriers”.

THE DUP DEPUTY leader Nigel Dodds has said that his party’s opposition to the Withdrawal Agreement remain just days before UK politicians are to vote on whether to keep or reject the deal.

Dodds had met with Prime Minister Theresa May for lunch at 10 Downing Street today along with DUP Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson and MEP Diane Dodds.

After the meeting, Dodds said:

The Irish Republic’s no-deal preparations published just before Christmas have laid bare the nonsense propaganda about a hard border.
No one wants a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Indeed, it’s becoming clearer by the day that no one is ever going to construct a hard border.

“With this clarity emerging in London, Dublin and Brussels, there is evidently no need for the aspects of the Withdrawal Agreement which have been so vigorously opposed by a broad cross section of the House of Commons.”

Although neither the UK nor the EU want to erect a border on the island of Ireland, if there are different customs or regulatory rules between the two jurisdictions, the EU said some checks would be necessary, citing documentation for the transportation of live animals and animal produce as one example.

Despite this declaration from the EU, the Irish government has said that it has made no preparations to erect a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The House of Commons vote

The UK parliament is due to vote on the Brexit deal agreed between the EU and UK negotiating teams in the final months of last year on the week beginning on 14 January.

There are a number of problems that MPs in favour of Brexit have with the deal, but most revolve around the backstop that’s been agreed.

The current provisions allow for a UK-wide customs arrangement, which would ensure that there would be no border (ie, customs checks) between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This would however, limit the UK’s abilities to strike up new trade deals with non-EU countries after they leave. 

The other problem Brexiteers have with the backstop is that it isn’t time-limited, meaning that if the EU and UK cannot strike up a free trade deal at the end of the next phase of negotiations (assuming they get that far) then the UK will be locked into what they assumed was a temporary arrangement in the form of the Irish backstop.

Today, Dodds said of the backstop:

“Contrary to the pro-EU spin, the backstop is not the best of both worlds. It is potentially indefinite in time, would place a barrier between us and our main trading partner in Great Britain, and gives enormous leverage to the European Union in the negotiations on the future relationship with the United Kingdom.”

Dodds added that having “a new east-west barrier should be no more palatable than having any new north-south barriers”.

Today, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar clarified that the UK negotiating team had pushed for the UK-wide customs arrangement, and that the EU were happy to accept a Northern Ireland-specific backstop.

Theresa May needs 320 MPs to vote for her Brexit deal at some point before the 29 January, in order that it can be subsequently ratified by the EU in time for an exit by the 29 March.

If the deal is rejected, as it is likely to be without the support of a large number of Tory MPs or the DUP, it’s unclear what will happen next. An amendment passed by ‘Remainer’ Dominic Grieve gives power back to the House of Commons in the event that the deal is rejected.

But what those options would be are limited. The UK must leave the EU by 29 March, although there technically could be an extension of the Article 50 timeline, the EU would only do this if there is a reasonable expectation that there would be a resolution. The European elections scheduled for April this year also put a time pressure on things.

Secondly, the EU and UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said that there will be no renegotiations, and that the only deal is the deal that is due to go before the House of Commons in 10 days time.

Based on that, a no-deal Brexit is looking increasingly likely.

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