The DUP has accused Boris Johnson of losing his nerve during Brexit negotiations as senior figures in the party said the PM had been ‘too eager by far’ to reach a deal with the EU.
The Northern Irish unionist party dropped a Brexit bombshell on Mr Johnson this morning as it said it could not support his proposed divorce agreement.
But he decided to push ahead with the accord anyway as he gambled on being able to get his deal through the House of Commons without the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs.
Mr Johnson’s decision to proceed without the blessing of his allies sparked DUP fury and accusations of the PM throwing the party under the bus.
The DUP is now vowing to fight against the agreement as a bitter war of words erupted and the party said it would try to persuade Tory backbenchers to abandon the premier.
Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster, the deputy leader and leader of the DUP, said today that they could not support Boris Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal
But Mr Johnson, pictured in Brussels this afternoon, decided to press ahead with his agreement without the support of the unionist party
Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s deputy leader, suggested Mr Johnson had struck a bad Brexit deal in a last-ditch bid to avoid another delay.
He said an anti-No Deal law known as the Benn Act which will force the PM to ask the EU for an extension beyond October 31 if no agreement is in place by close of play on Saturday had pushed the PM into an act of ‘desperation’.
‘He has been too eager by far to get a deal at any cost, and the fact of the matter is, if he held his nerve and held out he would, of course, have got better concessions that kept the integrity, both economic and constitutionally, of the United Kingdom,’ he said.
Meanwhile, Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, said she could not support the proposed agreement on the grounds it would result in several administrative borders being erected between the UK and Northern Ireland.
‘This gives us a border in the Irish Sea in terms of VAT, in terms of customs and in terms of single market rules, without any consent that is meaningful for the people of Northern Ireland,’ she said.
Mr Johnson managed to successfully delete the Irish border backstop from the divorce deal by replacing it with a complex set of customs arrangements and by giving the Northern Ireland Assembly a say on what should happen in the future.
But Ms Foster said allowing Stormont to vote on retaining the arrangements on the basis of a straight majority vote, rather than using a peace process mechanism that requires a majority of unionists and nationalists, undermined the principle of powersharing.
‘For the first time in 21 years we are moving away from powersharing, we are moving away from the majority of unionism and the majority of nationalists, we are moving to single majority vote,’ she said.
Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman, said the party will now encourage like-minded members of the government to oppose Mr Johnson’s Brexit deal.
‘We will encourage others to oppose it,’ Mr Wilson told Irish national broadcaster RTE.
‘I don’t think it’s for me to speak for them, other than to say that I have just left the House of Commons and on my way out I was stopped by at least four Conservatives who told me that they think that this is a disgraceful way to behave so we will fight this.’
He added: ‘In the past (former prime minister) Theresa May thought she had got people on board and then found to her surprise that they weren’t and I suspect there is every chance that this might happen again on Saturday.’
Ms Foster and Mr Dodds have been frequent visitors to Number 10 in recent days but talks ended in acrimony
The DUP had placed itself on a collision course with Mr Johnson this morning after it refused to back his hard-fought deal to quit the EU.
In a statement the DUP warned: ‘Saturday’s vote in Parliament on the proposals will only be the start of a long process to get any Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons.’
They added: ‘Following confirmation from the Prime Minister that he believes he has secured a ”great new deal” with the European Union the Democratic Unionist Party will be unable to support these proposals in Parliament.
‘The Democratic Unionist Party has worked since the referendum result to secure a negotiated deal as we leave the European Union.
‘We have been consistent that we will only ever consider supporting arrangements that are in Northern Ireland’s long-term economic and constitutional interests and protect the integrity of the Union.
‘These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union.’