DUP MP criticises Brexit deal as bid to 'make Northern Ireland colony of EU'

The pro-union party has expressed doubts about the PM's agreement

Freight lorries disembark from the the P&O ferry 'European Highlander' after arriving at Larne Port near Belfast, Northern Ireland. AFP
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A senior DUP MP has suggested that Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal would enable Brussels to keep the UK under its thumb and reduce Northern Ireland to “a colony of the EU”.

Sammy Wilson, the party’s chief whip, poured cold water over the Prime Minister’s Windsor Framework a day after he toured Northern Ireland in a bid to sell it to the region’s politicians.

Mr Wilson also warned it was “dangerous” for the Sunak government to involve King Charles III in politics. His rebuke came after Downing Street was warned the monarch’s meeting with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, shortly after she signed the pact around the corner from Windsor Castle, would “go down very badly in NI”.

Since the Prime Minister and Ms von der Leyen unveiled their historic agreement on Monday, several members of the DUP, Northern Ireland’s main pro-union party, have expressed their reservations.

But Mr Wilson’s review of the document on Wednesday was the most scathing so far.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said the DUP should have a say on whether Northern Ireland “become[s] a colony of the EU”.

British PM 'over the moon' with Northern Ireland Brexit deal

British PM 'over the moon' with Northern Ireland Brexit deal

“As members of the United Kingdom and in a democracy, we should have a say as to whether or not we are hived off and become a colony of the EU”, Mr Wilson said. “It’s not the duty of the UK government to safeguard the single market of the EU at the expense of the integrity and the unity of its own country. But that’s what’s happening at present.”

Mr Wilson was harsh in his criticism of the “Stormont brake”, a mechanism in the Framework which will allow the Northern Ireland assembly to stop new EU single market rules from applying in the territory. He said it “is not really a brake at all”, but rather “a delaying mechanism”.

He said the UK government having a final say over whether to veto a law means the mechanism is flawed, because London is “fearful of the consequences of trade for the rest of the United Kingdom”.

“The price of that would be that the EU would take retaliatory action”, Mr Wilson concluded, adding that he suspected the Stormont brake would therefore be “fairly ineffective”.

The DUP will not be pushed into accepting the deal and will take time to consider all of its aspects, he said.

“As long as it takes us to, first of all, look at the substance of the deal, rather than the spin which the government has given.”

He went on to say it was unwise of the Conservative government to involve the royal family in political matters.

“To use the monarch in the way in which he has been used, I think, is a very, very dangerous thing,” he said, suggesting the king was used to promote what is “not a great deal”.

The Prime Minister's spokesman on Tuesday told reporters the government would not put a time limit on the DUP deciding whether to support the deal.

What is the Windsor Framework?

This is everything you need to know about the agreement

Mr Sunak addressed Tory backbenchers at the 1922 Committee in the Commons on Tuesday evening after visiting Northern Ireland in an attempt to shore up support.

He was understood to have told Conservative colleagues he had “spent a lot of time” with DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, whose party walked out of Stormont, Northern Ireland's parliament, in protest at Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland Protocol.

“And I would just say one thing to you all: we should give him and the DUP time and space,” Mr Sunak said, as he acknowledged a “spectrum of views” within the unionist party.

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Updated: March 01, 2023, 4:25 PM