March 21, 2019
By Padraic Halpin
DUBLIN (Reuters) – The small Northern Irish party that props up British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government is no closer to backing her EU divorce agreement as talks between the sides continue, the party’s Brexit spokesman said on Thursday.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) 10 lawmakers in London have twice opposed the agreement May struck with the European Union and their support is vital if she is to stand any chance of reversing two heavy defeats.
“No, we’re not yet. We will however continue to talk to the prime minister because we think it is our duty to try and undo some of the damage included in the Withdrawal Agreement,” the DUP’s Sammy Wilson told Irish national broadcaster RTE when asked if they were any closer to backing the deal.
“We have made it quite clear that unless there is a legal means by which Northern Ireland would not be treated differently from the United Kingdom, not just assurances or promises but acting legislation, we will not be supporting the Withdrawal Agreement.”
May made an impassioned appeal to British lawmakers to support her on Wednesday after the EU said it could only grant her request to delay Brexit for three months if parliament next week backed her plans for leaving.
Wilson described the plea, in a televised address, as an attempt by the prime minister to try to shift the blame from “her own incompetent negotiations” and said she seemed to lump all those who voted against the deal together.
In a bid to win over the DUP, May also said on Wednesday that she intended to put forward further domestic proposals to protect the internal market of the United Kingdom.
Wilson said any proposals to keep Northern Ireland aligned with the rest of the United Kingdom would also have to be acceptable to the faction of Brexit hardliners in May’s own Conservative Party who are opposed to her deal and want a clean break from the EU.
“There is no point in us agreeing to something that is not deliverable anyway, nor do we have any intention of doing so. That’s why there are a lot of gaps in the negotiations at present. We will continue to talk but time is running out,” he said.
“It seems that if the agreement ever comes back to the House of Commons next week, those matters are not going to be resolved.”
(Editing by Janet Lawrence)