March 12, 2019 / 9:29 AM / 6 months ago

DUP 'not averse' to Brexit vote delay, time to study May's tweaked deal

BELFAST (Reuters) - Two members of the DUP, the Northern Irish party which props up Britain’s minority government, urged a delay to Tuesday’s parliamentary vote to give more time to scrutinise Prime Minister Theresa May’s tweaked Brexit deal.

Former Ulster Unionist MP and now working for rival Democratic Unionist Party - Jeffrey Donaldson smiles as he takes his seat for a debate at St. Louise's Comprehensive College during the "Feile an Phobail" West Belfast festival in west Belfast, August 4, 2004. REUTERS/Paul McErlane

The future of Britain’s exit from the European Union hung in the balance as members of parliament prepared to vote on the deal after May won last-minute assurances from the European Union.

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson told Irish national broadcaster RTE the party had not yet come to a definitive conclusion on how to vote, but that a delay “could be an option parliament may want to consider”.

His party colleague Sammy Wilson told BBC Radio Ulster: “I think if the government wants to have full scrutiny of this agreement and not give the impression it is trying to railroad it through because it’s afraid of scrutiny of it then one of the options it has is to put the vote off today.

“We wouldn’t be averse to that. It would give time for a full discussion.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster told RTE she plans to speak to May later on Tuesday, the broadcaster reported.

The assessment of the DUP’s 10 members of parliament is seen as crucial if May is to succeed in ratifying the deal.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of a faction in her Conservative Party demanding a clean break from the EU, said the DUP’s view will heavily influence many members of parliament.

Rees-Mogg told the BBC. “I think it would be better to have the vote tomorrow (Wednesday) when people had more mature consideration rather than this apparent bouncing of the decision which always raises concerns.”

Donaldson said the EU assurances offered the prospect of greater legal clarity around the withdrawal treaty but that his party wanted to hear from the government’s top lawyer as to whether it changed the legal advice he had previously provided.

In particular, they wanted to know whether Britain has the right to unilaterally withdraw from the backstop - an insurance policy to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland strongly opposed by the DUP - if it feels it is being treated unfairly.

He said his pro-Brexit party would take their own counsel as well and would make its own decision, one Wilson said would be a collective one between its 10 MPs.

“We certainly have greater clarity. Whether the changes that have been secured meet the requirements not only of ourselves but of Unionists across Northern Ireland and MPs across the House of Commons remains to be seen,” Donaldson said.

Reporting by Amanda Ferguson and Conor Humphries, writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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