The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson has called for the EU Withdrawal Agreement to be scrapped, saying the party “will not accept” the deal.
He said the deal, which includes the Northern Ireland Protocol, had placed a border down the Irish Sea.
He issued the statement days after his party leader and First Minister Arlene Foster said the protocol was now “law”.
She said although some would continue to fight it, she had to recognise that the protocol “is the reality now”.
The Brexit deal negotiated by Boris Johnson last October means the whole of the UK will leave the EU’s customs union when the Brexit transition period expires at the end of 2020.
However, under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland will continue to enforce the EU’s customs code at its ports and effectively stays in single market for goods.
This part of the deal was negotiated after more than three years of deliberations over how to avoid goods checks along the land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
However, the DUP vehemently opposed the protocol and any new goods checks at ports, arguing it would place an economic border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
‘Boris Johnston’s betrayal’
In his statement on Sunday, Mr Wilson repeated his criticism of the deal, saying it “must be scrapped or at the very least, significantly changed”.
“The Withdrawal Agreement and the border which it places down the Irish Sea, separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, was brought about by those who clamoured, campaigned and cajoled British negotiators to ensure that there were no checks between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic,” the DUP MP said.
“The political parties, the business groups, the economic commentators and the very representative bodies who are now complaining about the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol, have to take responsibility for its existence in the first place.
“They opened the door to allow Boris Johnston to justify his betrayal of this part of the United Kingdom.”
The East Antrim MP, who was the DUP’s Brexit spokesman throughout the negotiations, said the party had helped to stop former PM Theresa May’s Brexit deal on three occasions and continues to argue against Boris Johnston’s “anti-unionist Brexit”.
He said they are still trying to persuade Conservative MPs that the protocol is “not only bad for Northern Ireland, but ties the UK as a whole into the influence of EU institutions”.
However, this comes just days after DUP leader Arlene Foster told Sky News that although she opposed the protocol, she accepted it had gained the support of the majority of UK parliament.
“Boris Johnson is prime minister, he took it to the Commons, he gained the support he needed, and therefore it became law,” she said.
“I mean, there are some who would continue to fight against the protocol, I have to recognise that that is the reality now.”
Mrs Foster added that she would now use her role as a unionist leader to “make sure that I mitigate against the damage to the union”.
Sammy Wilson’s hostility to Boris Johnson’s EU Withdrawal Agreement and the prospect of an economic border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is not new.
However, the vehemence with which he has reiterated his view invites comparison with the apparently more relaxed approach taken by his party leader in a recent Sky News interview.
First Minister Arlene Foster appeared keen to make the best of what the DUP regards as a bad job.
She told Sky News she has to recognise the Northern Ireland protocol is now a reality and use initiatives such as the UK’s proposed Shared Prosperity Fund to mitigate its impact.
The TUV leader Jim Allister argues its not difficult to discern a difference between Sammy Wilson’s attitude and what he calls Arlene Foster’s “roll over approach”.
Mr Wilson argues that if the current trade talks between the UK and the EU end without a deal the Northern Ireland protocol should be called into question.
But this runs counter to previous assurances from UK ministers like Michael Gove who says the protocol will be observed even if there is no trade deal.
Mr Wilson argued the Withdrawal Agreement was “impossible” to implement because of uncertainty over future goods checks at Northern Ireland ports.
He said politicians “don’t even know the level and depth of checks which will be required” as that issue is still to be agreed.
Other unionist leaders have criticised Mrs Foster’s approach to the protocol.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Steve Aiken said the Brexit deal “is potentially disastrous economically and constitutionally for Northern Ireland”.
“We won`t be able to trade within our own country without jumping through legislative hoops dictated by the EU and meekly accepted by the Conservative government.”
Mr Aiken called it a debacle that could be traced “directly back to the DUP conceding the principle of a regulatory border in the Irish Sea on 2 October 2019”.
Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) party leader Jim Allister said the Withdrawal Agreement tears “at the very fabric of the union”.
“Yet, sadly the DUP leadership has come to terms with it”, he added.
He said DUP Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots was “putting in place the very infrastructure at our ports that creates the disastrous Irish Sea border”.
— to www.bbc.co.uk