The DUP’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds has denounced Mrs May’s entire approach in a statement that all but guarantees her deal will not pass next week. The outcome of yesterday’s EU summit seems to have been the last straw. The DUP rejection also casts severe doubt on whether the confidence and supply arrangement that gave her a working majority can survive, at least under her leadership and without a hard Brexit prime minister succeeding her and able to deliver it. It may be that as the government casts around for an alternative to her deal, they are implicitly withdrawing from the DUP deal anyway. None of the suggested alternatives disposes of the backstop because the withdrawal agreement would survive, being eligible for replacement only in the next stage of negotiations for the final relationship. As the threat of No Deal by whatever name recedes, so it seems do the DUP’s terms for agreement and their leverage in Parliament.
Astoundingly Dodds seems to have expected Mrs May to have presented something like the ERG/DUP free trade quasi-no deal proposal to EU leaders last night. That was never remotely possible. Although Dodds sent out mixed signals about Attorney General Geoffrey Cox’s attempts to argue that equal legal weight should be given to parallel assurances that the backstop was temporary, he was not assured by the EU leaders attaching the Strasbourg agreement to the withdrawal agreement last night.
As Guardian Live reports..
Even by DUP standards, Nigel Dodds’ statement is unusually harsh. It reads..
The prime minister missed an opportunity at the EU Council to put forward proposals which could have improved the prospects of an acceptable withdrawal agreement and help unite the country.
That failure is all the more disappointing and inexcusable given the clear divisions and arguments which became evident amongst EU member states when faced with outcomes they don’t like.
As we have always said, negotiations with the EU inevitably go down to the wire and the government has been far too willing to capitulate before securing the necessary changes which would get an agreement through the House of Commons.
The government has consistently settled for inferior compromises when they didn’t need to and when there was, and is, more negotiating with the EU to be done.
Lectures by the prime minister putting the blame on others cannot disguise the responsibility her government bears for the current debacle and the fact that her agreement has been twice overwhelmingly rejected in parliament.
The prime minister has now agreed with the EU to kick the can down the road for another two weeks and humiliatingly revoke her oft-stated pledge that the UK would leave the EU on 29th March.
Nothing has changed as far as the withdrawal agreement is concerned.
Nothing fundamentally turns on the formal ratification of documents which the attorney general has already said do not change the risk of the UK being trapped in the backstop.
The DUP has been very clear throughout that we want a deal which delivers on the referendum result and which works for all parts of the UK and for the EU as well. But it must be a deal that protects the Union.
That remains our abiding principle. We will not accept any deal which poses a long term risk to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London