Northern Ireland news

DUP 'cooking a fudge' on Brexit

The DUP's Sammy Wilson indicated his party would accept a time-limited backstop. Picture by Matt Bohill
John Manley and Rebecca Black

THE DUP is "cooking a fudge" on Brexit and its opposition to Theresa May's withdrawal agreement will evaporate, it has been claimed.

Former Ulster Unionist leader Lord Reg Empey said the party's "chest beating has gone" after senior representatives including Sammy Wilson indicated they would accept a time-limited backstop.

He was speaking as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last night said it is unlikely the UK will crash out of the EU without a deal on March 29.

The Fine Gael leader, who met business leaders in Belfast, said: "I think that we either will have a deal or we will have an extension but as is always the case, we have to work hard to achieve that withdrawal agreement, to get it ratified and also prepare for the worst-case scenario in case that arises."

Later, at a gathering of the Alliance Party, Mr Varadkar said he was "deeply concerned at how Brexit has already weakened the (Good Friday) agreement and I am concerned that anything that creates new differences - divergence between Britain and Ireland - will undermine it more.

"We cannot allow that to happen."

Lord Empey told The Irish News the DUP was likely to "hang its hat" on a legal text Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is hoping to negotiate with Brussels.

"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.

The DUP did not respond directly but last night party leader Arlene Foster said it 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.

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