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Brexit: Labour’s ‘door is open’ to DUP for talks


Sir Keir Starmer speaking to the press outside BBC New Broadcasting House in LondonImage copyright

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Sir Keir Starmer says Labour’s “door is open” to the DUP for talks over Brexit

Labour has issued an “open invite” to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for talks about the possibility of amending crucial Brexit legislation.

On Saturday MPs – including the DUP – voted to withhold approval of a new Brexit deal until all necessary laws to implement it are passed.

The government is to move that legislation this week.

Labour intends to table an amendment for a new referendum and the party has said its “door is open” to the DUP.

But the DUP insists it is not in favour of another public vote.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show any Brexit deal needed to be put to a referendum.

And he said his party would likely table other amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill as well.

The bill ensures all EU laws that need to be transferred into domestic UK legislation are implemented.

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Boris Johnson had to ask the EU for another Brexit delay after Saturday’s vote in the Commons

Asked if he was talking to the DUP, Sir Keir said: “I would openly invite the DUP talk to us.”

“I say to the DUP in particular: if you want to work with us on this to improve the situation our door is open to that discussion.”

‘PM fixated with Brexit deadline’

But East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson said his party “does not seek a second referendum – merely implementation of the first”.

He said the DUP’s goal remained ensuring Northern Ireland and Great Britain left the EU as “one nation”.

“If the prime minister remains willing to achieve that outcome he will find DUP MPs as willing partners in that project,” he added.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal

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ANALYSIS: Chances of agreement still strong, says Laura Kuenssberg

IN BRIEF: What happened on Saturday?

EXPLAINED: How another delay would work

IN GRAPHICS: What happens now?

The DUP inflicted a blow on the prime minister on Saturday, with the votes of its 10 MPs for the so-called Letwin amendment ensuring a government defeat.

The party’s relationship with Prime Minister Boris Johnson has become strained since he negotiated a new Brexit deal with the EU that includes special customs arrangements for Northern Ireland.

The DUP has rejected the plan and said the prime minister was “too eager” to get a deal at any cost in order to leave the EU by 31 October.

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EU leaders must decide whether they will grant a Brexit extension

After Saturday’s vote, Mr Johnson sent a letter to the EU requesting a delay – under the terms of the so-called Benn Act – but ministers insist the UK will still leave the EU by the Halloween deadline.

Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme, DUP MP Emma Little-Pengelly said Mr Johnson’s “fixation” with leaving the EU by the 31 October meant he had “rushed the details” of his Brexit deal.

In response, Northern Ireland Office Minister Robin Walker said the government would continue to talk to the DUP and the independent unionist MP Lady Hermon about their concerns over the Brexit deal.

Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith tweeted that he would “continue to fight for Northern Ireland interests” over Brexit.

Also speaking on Sunday Politics, Conservative MP Dominic Grieve said he had warned the DUP that Mr Johnson would change his position on Northern Ireland and Brexit.

“I predicted to them some months ago this was what was going to happen – I told them that Boris Johnson was going to betray them,” he added.

Mr Grieve, who had the Conservative whip withdrawn by Mr Johnson, said he thought the prime minister’s deal questioned his unionist credentials.

Asked if the prime minister was a unionist, he said “No, I don’t.”

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