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DUP points fingers at ERG members

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaking at a press conference in Dublin last October. Some of her colleagues are worried that ultra-Brexiteers aren’t focused on the Union.


By Anthony Neeson

Cracks are beginning to emerge between Northern Ireland's DUP and their allies in the Conservative Party, as jittery Brexiteers begin to fear that they may not achieve Brexit at all.

On Monday night in the House of Commons MPs voted to stage a series of “indicative votes” on alternatives to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU withdrawal deal.

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This Friday was supposed to be the day that the UK left the European Union, however, last week the EU agreed to an extension, with Westminster in disarray over Brexit.

The DUP, who are propping up the Conservative government at Westminster, are adamant that they won't support Theresa May’s deal with the EU. However, now one leading member of the ultra Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) within the Conservatives has hinted that he could reluctantly back May, saying “the choice seems to be Mrs May’s deal or no Brexit”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s intervention is seen as significant. Last week he said he would back the Prime Minister's deal if the DUP supported it. Rees-Mogg is an influential figure within the Tories and spoke at a DUP fundraising dinner earlier this year.

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Prime Minister Theresa May. PHOTO COURTESY OF EUROPEAN UNION[/caption]

British Prime Minister Theresa May has gotten an extension from the EU.

However, the DUP are now accusing some members of the ERG of being more concerned with Brexit than the Union.

DUP Strangford MP Jim Shannon said: “Disappointingly, from their point of view, some of those seem to have filtered away over the night.

“They’ve not all changed their opinion, but they maybe see Brexit as a greater issue than the Union.

“We see the Union as the big issue, as the priority and that’s what we’re focused upon.”

Earlier Jacob Rees-Mogg said that Mrs May’s deal was better than Brexit being revoked.

“Whether we are there yet is another matter, but 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,” he said.

Last week the EU offered to delay Brexit until 22 May, if MPs approve Mrs May’s withdrawal deal. If they do not support the deal, the EU will back a shorter delay until 12 April which would give the British government time to get the deal through or “indicate a way forward”.

Meanwhile, the Irish government has said that it is not preparing for a hard border in Ireland post-Brexit. It came as the EU announced that it had completed its no-deal contingency plans. EU officials said extra controls will be needed on the Irish border but that “we are working very closely with the Irish authorities, we try and perform the controls away from the border”.