It is time to work for a better Brexit deal which does not undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom, the deputy leader of the DUP has said.

The British Prime Minister has faced significant political turbulence and widespread criticism since unveiling her draft withdrawal deal for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union last week.

"This deal would place a trade border in the Irish Sea, subject us to EU rules without any power to influence or change them and binds us to the EU with no unilateral ability to leave. Indeed, Northern Ireland is part of the EU customs union not the UK's.

"Even Jeremy Corbyn gets it, although nationalists and republicans here are desperate for him to stop saying it.

"I understand why some people fear a 'no deal' scenario. But the choice is between this very bad deal and the right deal," DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said in a statement.

"With MPs on all sides of the House pointing to the dangers for the Union of the Withdrawal Agreement, it is clear that it is time to work for a better deal which does not undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom," said Mr Dodds.

Meanwhile, the approach taken by the Government to the Brexit negotiations faced strong criticism at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis from Ulster Unionist Party leader, Robin Swann.

Robin Swann
Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann addressed a meeting at Fine Gael's Ard Fheis

Mr Swann said recent remarks from Fine Gael members were delivered "like a poke in the eye to unionism".

He said his party faced a kind of "suck it up attitude" in relation to legitimate concerns they had about the backstop.

Speaking at a panel discussion on relations with Northern Ireland yesterday, he called for a change of tack from the government and other parties in the South.

He said his party does not want to see the re-introduction of physical structures on the border on the island of Ireland but that he did not see the same understanding from the Irish Government about unionist concerns in relation to a hard border in the Irish Sea.

He said a sea border is a direct challenge to the Belfast Agreement and the principle of consent and is not a concern that should be waved away.

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He said a selective reading of the Belfast Agreement and an 'Ireland first' rhetoric would only stretch relationships.

He also said he wanted to challenge perceptions in relation to unionism and is tired of being portrayed as being snide, obnoxious and exclusive.

Speaking at the same discussion, Senator Joe O’Reilly from Cavan, stressed the benefits to the north of the Withdrawal Agreement giving it unfettered access to the EU and the UK.

Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, criticised recent calls for a border poll as being "unhelpful distractions" and said it was unacceptable that the Executive in the north was not functioning.  

Additional reporting: Mícheál Ó Leidhin