Belfast: Northern Ireland’s largest political party on Friday said it would not allow the British region to be forced to accept EU regulations after Brexit, shooting down reports that such a move might unlock British negotiations on an EU exit deal.
EU and Irish officials have suggested that one way out of the current impasse in talks over a British withdrawal agreement would be for the creation of a Northern Ireland-only “backstop” that would align regulations with EU member Ireland.
But the Democratic Unionist Party, whose 10 members of parliament support British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, said they would only accept EU laws if the Northern Ireland assembly could pick and choose - something the Ireland and the EU have repeatedly rejected in the past.
“We will not accept a NI only backstop... It won’t be a backstop by any other name either. We will not be accepting separate arrangements that cut us off from UK,” DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson told BBC Radio Ulster.
“The only different arrangements that we will accept for Northern Ireland are those where the Assembly has total scrutiny of any EU legislation, decides it’s in the interests of Northern Ireland, and doesn’t damage our relationship with the UK,” he said.
“In those situations we will consider adopting appropriate legislation if we believe it is to the advantage of industry in Northern Ireland.” Wilson was speaking after The Times newspaper reported that the DUP had agreed to accept Northern Ireland abiding by some European Union rules after Brexit as part of a deal to replace the Irish backstop.
With Johnson vowing to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 - deal or no deal - the bloc has focused in recent days on a Northern Ireland-only backstop as the best chance of getting a deal before the deadline lapses.
That would involve applying different border rules to Northern Ireland from the rest of the country to help keep goods flowing across the Irish border.
DUP leader Arlene Foster also rejected the story in a tweet, saying the “UK must leave as one nation.” “We are keen to see a sensible deal but not one that divides the internal market of the UK,” Foster said.