Brexit news: Boris ‘trusted’ by DUP where Theresa May was not, says ex-diplomat | Politics | News

Ray Bassett made his remarks in the wake of an event at last week’s Conservative Party conference in Manchester entitled Abolishing the Backstop: preserving the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, which he attended along with DUP leader Arlene Foster and pro-Brexit Labour MP Kate Hoey, among others. Mr Bassett, the former Irish ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas, set out his thoughts about the Prime Minister’s latest ideas in Boris Johnson’s Working Compromise, a new paper published by the Politeia think tank.

He told iloveviral: “I think Boris Johnson enjoys a level of familiarity and trust with the DUP that certainly Theresa May didn’t.

“He’s obviously worked very hard on building up that trust.

“He’s visited Northern Ireland and he’s clearly spend some time with the DUP in Westminster.

“So he’s worked hard at that area so I think that they were prepared to give him more leeway than they would Theresa May.”

In terms of the proposals themselves, which advocate replacing the backstop plan with a system whereby Northern Ireland would leave the customs union but stay in the single market for goods.

Mr Bassett said: “What Boris Johnson’s put together is kind of a mish-mash of actually everything.

“There’s a bit of the backstop in it but the backstop has a time limit on it.

“It includes certain areas and doesn’t include other areas.

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Mr Bassett suggested the DUP’s willingness to embrace the proposals put forward by Mr Johnson might also be partly motivated by concerns over the impact of leaving the EU without any sort of a deal in place.

He explained: “I think the DUP feel that Brexit is a big danger to them.

“The Unionists have lost their majority in Northern Ireland, they are a minority in the assembly and the only way they hold on is through this special arrangement which was designed to protect minorities.

“They regard Brexit as a real danger and a real issue that may galvanise the rest of the population in Northern Ireland into becoming more militant and demanding removal from the United Kingdom.

“I think the DUP sense danger and they are trying to have a safe landing and they are quite prepared to compromise.”

He also suggested Ms Foster herself was a driving force in terms of the need to compromise, pointing to her attitude to Northern Ireland’s ongoing lack of a functioning Government after the collapse of the power-sharing agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Mr Bassett said: “It’s rumoured in Northern Ireland that during the discussions last year and earlier this year to re-establish an executive Arlene Foster was probably one of the more moderate in terms of leaning over and doing a deal with Sinn Fein but she was overruled by some people in Westminster.

“I think she badly wants to get a Government up again in Northern Ireland and to do that you just have to compromise in the Northern Ireland community.

“You just cannot be a purist on either side – it just won’t work.”

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