Nigel Dodds, the leader of the DUP in Westminster, said the EU is acting ‘like an adversary’ and the extra £3billion pledged to plan for no deal is crucial to show Britain means business.
And he also claimed credit for Philip Hammond‘s decision to ease austerity in the Budget, saying his party had demanded more cash for public services to keep the Tories No10.
Mr Dodds urged the PM to take a tough stance as she arrives in Brussels today for an EU summit on security.
She will hold talks with EU Council President Donald Tusk in a bid to unblock Brexit talks and move on to trade negotiations by the end of the year.
Nigel Dodds, pictured outside No 10 with the party’s Northern Ireland leader Arlene Foster earlier this week, said Theresa May must stick to her warning that no Brexit deal is better than a bad deal as he urges her to be prepared to walk away form talks
Mr Dodds said: ‘We are very keen to see bigger and better preparations to be made for Brexit by the Chancellor – so the £3billion he set aside is a lot better than what he has talked about previously.
‘It must send a message to the European Union that we are serious about all scenarios that may emerge as a result of the talks.
THE STICKING POINTS IN BREXIT TALKS
Brussels said ‘sufficient progress’ has to be made on citizens rights, the Irish border and the divorce bill before trade talks can start.
Brexit Divorce Bill:
Britain had offered £20billion for a two-year transition deal, but ministers are believed to have agreed to effectively double this in an effort to start trade talks by the new year.
EU citizens rights:
Theresa May has said we are within touching distance of a deal but Brussels is more gloomy.
The EU wants their citizens rights to be guaranteed by the European Court of Justice, but Mrs May said getting rid of the authority of the ECJ in the UK is one of her Brexit red lines.
Both the EU, UK and the Republic of Ireland are all clear they do not want to see a return to the hard border – fearing this could reignite sectarian violence.
But it remains unclear how Northern Ireland can leave the EU’s customs union and single market without having a hard border crossing.
The Irish Republic has suggested border checks could be pushed back to the border with the mainland of the rest of the UK, but this has been ruled out by the Government and the DUP.
‘We have negotiated in Northern Ireland for 20, 30 years and the last thing you want to signal to your political adversary – and the EU are acting like an adversary in many cases in the talks process – you have got to show that you are prepared if necessary to walk away, that no deal is better than a bad deal.’
The DUP only have ten MPs in Westminster but they wield a large amount of influence on the Government after entering into a confidence and supply deal with the Tories.
Their MPs agreed to vote with the Government on major votes like the Budget and Brexit in return for an extra £1billion for Northern Ireland.
Brussels has so far refused to start Brexit trade talks despite a series of concessions by UK ministers in a bid to begin them by the new year.
The Cabinet is understood to have doubled its Brexit divorce bill offer from £20billion and £40billion in a last-ditch attempt to move the negotiations on.
But EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier is reportedly determined to squeeze another £10billion out of Britain.
And Brussels has warned that more movement must be made on citizens rights and the Irish border before Brexit talks can move on.
Mr Dodds, who was speaking to the Choppers podcast ahead of his party’s conference this weekend, said the DUP has already changed the approach of the Tories by pushing ministers to turn the spending taps on.
He said: ‘We have already had evidence of our influence – the headlines today of austerity coming to an end – we made it clear at the start that we could not support an ongoing austerity programme that was focused entirely on reducing debt.
‘We believe debt does need managed, it does need to be brought down. The Chancellor said he had to do that but in tandem there had to be a balanced approach, helping hardworking families, those in need.
‘That is why we supported the lifting of the pay cap for instance – we are very happy to see that in relation to nurses and others in the health service getting money guaranteed for pay rises.’
Theresa May, pictured in Brussels at the EU summit, is hoping her talk with Donald Tusk today will help unblock Brexit talks and kickstart trade negotiations by the new year