Brexit

Lord Empey claims DUP 'cooking a fudge' on Brexit deal

Lord Reg Empey claimed the DUP had 'failed to understand the significance of the backstop'. Picture by Pacemaker

FORMER Ulster Unionist leader Lord Reg Empey has claimed the DUP is "cooking a fudge" and its opposition to Theresa May's withdrawal agreement will evaporate over the coming days.

The unionist peer said senior DUP representatives, including Nigel Dodds and Gregory Campbell, had already indicated the party is willing to accept a time-limited backstop, having previously been hostile to the agreed measure to guarantee a frictionless border.

This week, DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said the party could back Mrs May's deal if the EU agreed to a time limit on the backstop.

"The nature of the time limit would be very important – it can't be a long time in the distance," he said.

Lord Empey last night told The Irish News that the DUP's "chest beating has gone" and the party was likely to "hang its hat" on a legal text Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is hoping to negotiate with Brussels.

"They will argue that things have changed but no matter what way you look at it, they will not be delivering the Brexit they promised," he said.

"At the beginning of all this, we were going to chart a new course – we were going to get rid of the European court and we were going to be free to strike new trade deals around the world, but none of that is going to happen."

The former UUP leader, who in line with his party backed Remain in the EU referendum, claimed the DUP had "failed to understand the significance of the backstop" and were only doing so "at the eleventh hour".

"The DUP is cooking a fudge and many people who want to see Brexit are going to be left with no choice – it's a half-baked Brexit but it's the last chance they have," he said.

Lord Empey rejected suggestions that pressure from business groups and the farming lobby had tempered the DUP's previously strident approach to Brexit.

He said their role had been "overplayed".

"Businesspeople have made interventions in politics before and it hasn't really had really made much impact," he said.

"If I take the farming people for instance, during the referendum they said damn all and now they're out screaming at the last minute – they didn't flag up any of this at the beginning."

The DUP did not respond directly to Lord Empey's comments but last night party leader Arlene Foster said she and her colleagues would "work with the prime minister and anyone else necessary to ensure the referendum result is implemented".

She said the withdrawal agreement "will not work" and voiced support for the so-called Brady amendment, which seeks to reopen the deal signed off in November.

"We do not want to see a so-called hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but equally there cannot be any new border placed down the Irish Sea," she said.

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