Northern Ireland news

Sammy Wilson says one-year Brexit delay better than 'toxic deal'

Sammy Wilson indicated that the DUP would prefer a one-year extension to Theresa May's withdrawal agreement

SAMMY Wilson has suggested the DUP would prefer to delay Brexit for a year rather than accept Theresa May's "toxic deal".

As European Research Group leader Jacob Rees-Mogg signalled that the withdrawal deal which has been rejected twice by Westminster would be better than no Brexit, the DUP insisted that its position remained unchanged.

The apparent divergence between the key Brexiteer allies came ahead of today's indicative votes in the House of Commons, with MPs set to consider a series of alternatives to the Tory leader's withdrawal deal.

A series of ballots testing support for various ideas will take place this evening, with the process likely to continue into next week.

Mrs May still hopes to bring her deal back to parliament for a third meaningful vote this week, likely buoyed by Mr Rees-Mogg saying he would consider backing it.

Speaking to the Conservative Home website, the arch Brexiteer said fellow ERG members needed to recognise that MPs were unlikely to deliver their preferred version of Brexit.

"The ERG and other Eurosceptics in parliament cannot win any vote on our own," he said.

But other ERG members remain opposed to Mrs May’s plan, as does the DUP.

Theresa May still hopes to get MPs' support for her withdrawal agreement. Picture by House of Commons/PA Wire

Strangford MP Jim Shannon reacted to Mr Rees-Mogg's wavering, telling the BBC: "Disappointingly, from their point of view, some of those seem to have filtered away over the night.

"They've not all changed their opinion, but they maybe see Brexit as a greater issue than the Union.’’

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said there were "some colleagues" who had previously opposed the deal who had changed their minds because it was "better than losing Brexit".

"To them I say that, if the deal goes through, we have lost our right to leave the EU," he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

"If we sign up to it, we give away our right to leave to the whim and dictates of the EU – that is not Brexit.

The East Antrim MP appeared to indicate that his party would prefer a "one-year extension" to accepting Mrs May's withdrawal deal.

"Even if we are forced into a one-year extension, we at least would have a say on the things which affect us during that time and would have the right to unilaterally decide to leave at the end of that one-year period through the simple decision of not applying for a further extension," he said.

"Surely this is a better strategy than volunteering to be locked into the prison of the withdrawal deal with the cell door key in the pocket of Michel Barnier?"

The DUP's apparent support for a 12-month delay drew criticism from the cross-party campaign Get Britain Out.

Its director Jayne Adye said: "The suggestion by the DUP, and others of a long delay to Brexit is ludicrous.

"The prominence of support by the DUP within the current government is one of the major factors which has brought the Backstop and the Northern Ireland border into such prominence – this seems like a ploy from the DUP to try and extort further money out of the Conservative government, as their current confidence and supply agreement comes to an end in June."

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