BELFAST (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Northern Ireland allies on Wednesday said they supported his new Brexit proposals because they handed them a veto over any regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The European Union’s insistence that Northern Ireland diverge with regulations in the rest of the United Kingdom in favor of EU rules – where necessary in order to avoid a border with member state Ireland – prompted the DUP and pro-Brexit allies to reject earlier deals.
The Irish government has in the past made clear it would not accept an unambiguous veto for the pro-Brexit DUP.
Under the proposed deal “nothing can be done unless unionists agree to that,” Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds told BBC television, describing it as an “absolute defense” for unionists, who oppose divergence.
“We remain wedded to the view that the … economic integrity of the United Kingdom is sacrosanct,” Dodds added.
An outline of Johnson’s proposals published by the British government earlier on Wednesday, said the Northern Ireland regional parliament and power-sharing government should have the opportunity to endorse any regulatory alignment before it is imposed.
But it did not spell out the mechanism that would be used.
Dodds said his understanding was that a mechanism in Northern Ireland’s 1998 peace deal known as “parallel consent” would mean any divergence in regulations with the rest of the United Kingdom would require a majority of both Irish nationalist and pro-British members of the regional parliament.
The Democratic Unionist Party represents a large majority of the unionist members of the regional assembly and could thus block any divergence.
Reporting by Amanda Ferguson; Writing by Conor Humphries, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien