Political news

Michel Barnier's draft legal text 'has united Labour and Tories in utter defiance', says Nigel Dodds

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said both Conservative and Labour MPs were opposed to Mr Barnier's draft
Dan O Donoghue, Press Association

The European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier has united Labour and the Conservatives "in utter defiance" with his draft legal text on future arrangements after Brexit, DUP MP Nigel Dodds said.

The DUP's Westminster leader made the remark during Prime Minister's Questions, where he told MPs that Mr Barnier had succeeded in bringing a measure of progress to the negotiations with the draft text.

In the text, Mr Barnier proposed a "common regulatory area" after Brexit on the island of Ireland - in effect keeping Northern Ireland in a customs union - if no other solution is found.

The DUP said the text went beyond the joint report agreed by Britain and the EU during a breakthrough in the talks in December, had omissions in some areas and overreached in others.

Mr Dodds, speaking in the Commons, said: "Would she (Theresa May) acknowledge and indeed praise the success of the EU negotiator Michel Barnier in bringing a measure of progress in the Brexit negotiations, in that he's managed to unite the Government and the Opposition in utter defiance of the legal text that he has brought forward out of the December arrangements.

"Would she agree that now is the time for the EU to get on and examine the sensible, pragmatic, sensible arrangements over customs and the Northern Ireland border and it's time that the EU got on with the fact and got on to the main trade negotiations."

Mrs May said: "He's absolutely right, now is the time for the European Union negotiators to get on with the job of discussing that trade economic partnership for the future.

"I'm pleased that we will be able to discuss with the Irish government and the commission the practical details of delivering on the solution for the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, so that we continue to see that free flow of trade, not just between Northern Ireland and Ireland but actually between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom."

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