The Democratic Unionist Party have dealt a “shattering blow” to Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans, saying they “can’t support” the Prime Minister’s new deal to leave the EU.
A DUP statement delivered at 7am this morning rejected the revised Brexit deal ahead of the crucial EU leaders’ summit in Brussels.
It is believed most of the outstanding issues between the UK, Ireland and the EU have been agreed in the new deal, but it already looks doomed without the DUP’s support.
The BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith told the Today programme that the DUP’s rejection of the plan “is a shattering blow for the prime minister”
The decision, said Smith would “seem to scupper the Prime Minister’s prospects of securing a deal in Brussels today.”
DUP support is crucial
The support of the DUP is seen as crucial to any deal getting passed by the House of Commons given parliamentary numbers, the government’s lack of an overall majority and the fact that the ERG (European Research Group) faction in the Tory party take their lead from the DUP.
The joint statement by DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy Nigel Dodds said there continued to be concerns about customs and VAT provisions and reiterated their demand that any concessions must be democratically accountable to the people of Northern Ireland.
‘As things stand…’
However, they have not closed the door to reaching a possible compromise in the future, with the statement saying: “As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.”
This is being grasped at as implying some tweaks and concessions might win the DUP round into supporting a future deal.
The DUP statement added: “We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”
The proposed new customs regime and the issue of consent are the main sticking points, with the need for Stormont to agree to the changes regarded as paramount.
Their ‘Five Key Priorities’ are listed as: jobs, families, health, education and infrastructure.
The DUP won ten seats in the 2017 general election with a 36% share of the vote in Northern Ireland. They signed a Confidence and Supply agreement to support Teresa May’s Conservative Government.
They are social conservatives, pro-Brexit and pro-union. They are anti-abortion and anti-same sex marriage and LGBT rights. They have historical links to loyalist paramilitaries and received the endorsement of the three biggest such groups in the 2017 election, athough they did not accept the support.
Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow described them as “one of the most extreme political entities in the British Isles”.
In the 2016 referendum, Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU by 56% to 44% to leave.