The DUP have dealt a killer blow to Theresa May’s plan as they refused to back her ‘toxic’ Brexit deal.
The Northern Ireland party, which props up the Tories in Parliament, have consistently opposed the PM’s deal because of the Irish backstop.
As a number of Brexiteers are indicating they could cave and back the deal to avoid no Brexit, the DUP are holding firm.
On Tuesday they insisted they still preferred leaving without a deal to Theresa May’s deal.
But their Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson went one step further and suggested that an extension was better than the PM’s deal.
He said: “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.”
“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?”
In an impassioned piece in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Wilson wrote that parliament and the Prime Minister were engaged in a “war of attrition” as she tries to wear down MPs to get them to back her deal.
And he attacked the “referendum-defying Remainer horde in Parliament” after the Commons voted to hold a series of indicative votes on the different Brexit options.
A spokesman for the party said: “Our position remains unchanged and as previously set out.
“We will judge all proposals and scenarios on the basis of our objectives to maintain the integrity of the United Kingdom and deliver on the referendum result,” the spokesman said.
Mr Wilson made that absolutely clear in his piece for the Telegraph.
He said: “We will never volunteer to Northern Ireland being torn from the rest of the UK or our economy being damaged by having trade restrictions between Northern Ireland and our main market in Great Britain.
“We have worked assiduously with the Government to try to get changes to the agreement and will continue to do so, but we will not vote for an unamended or unchanged version.”
The DUP’s main concern is that Northern Ireland ends up being treated differently to the rest of the UK.
It comes as European Reform Group chief Jacob Rees-Mogg said the choice now seemed to be between May’s deal or no Brexit.
“I have always thought that no-deal is better than Mrs May’s deal. But Mrs May’s deal is better than not leaving at all,” Rees-Mogg, who has described the deal as leaving Britain “a slave state”, said in a podcast.
“I think it becomes the choice, eventually. But whether we are there yet is another matter … Leaving the European Union, even leaving it inadequately and having work to do afterwards, is better than not leaving at all.”
Another eurosceptic Conservative lawmaker, Michael Fabricant, said he too had come to the same “dreadful conclusion” that May’s plan was the “least worst option but the only practical way forward for now”.
Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski, a member of the European Research Group, said a “trickle” of ERG members supporting the Prime Minister’s deal on Tuesday has become a “flow”.
“I addressed the ERG last night, as did some of my other fellow Tory MPs, and we basically said to them the time has come now to back the Prime Minister’s deal,” he said.
“The Prime Minister’s deal turns out to be the least worst option out of all the options which Parliament are now putting forward.
“We were very concerned about aspects of it but frankly it’s a dream compared to a full blown customs union, another referendum or a single market agreement with the European Union that doesn’t fulfil what our constituents voted for.
“I think when we debated this issue last night, it was six of one and half a dozen of the other when it came to the speakers, both for and against.
“There is definitely a palpable shift. It was a trickle, now it’s a flow.
“We Brexiteers are playing with fire, and we could get very, very burnt if this deal doesn’t get through.”
Theresa May will face a showdown meeting with Tory MPs tomorrow night as they demand she names a date to resign.
Pressure on the PM to lay out a departure timetable is reaching fever pitch ahead of the crunch meeting of the powerful 1922 Committee.
Conservative MPs have openly urged their leader in recent days to name a date to resign – in some cases, in exchange for them approving her Brexit deal.
Reports suggest Mrs May hinted at naming a date in a Chequers summit on Sunday, but stopped short of doing so.
Now it has emerged she will address the Committee, the body for Tory backbenchers, in Parliament at 5pm tomorrow.
That has sparked fevered speculation she could finally lay out a timetable for her exit from Downing Street.
Mrs May – who has promised to leave by summer 2022 but not sooner – cannot be challenged for the Tory leadership again until December, because she has a year’s grace for surviving the last attempt.
But so-called ‘men in grey suits’ of her Cabinet have demanded she stands down in exchange for MPs backing her deal.
That could allow Brexiteers a chance at installing a hardliner for the next stage of talks with the EU.
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