The DUP’s chief whip has called on the Northern Ireland Secretary to “look again” at Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson raised the issue of the Withdrawal Agreement in the Commons, warning of the “damage it’s doing to Unionist confidence in the process”.

His comments came as the Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith insisted “there is no change as (he) knows to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland”, but conceded: “I accept that there have been significant questions from the Unionist community.”

Speaking during Northern Ireland questions, Sir Jeffrey said: “The EU Withdrawal Agreement could potentially create a precedent whereby the principle of consent is altered.

“The principle of consent is fundamental to Unionist support for the political process and our participation in that process.

“I ask (him) to look again at what the Government has proposed in this agreement and the damage it’s doing to Unionist confidence in the process.”

Mr Smith replied: “I will continue to reassure people that there is no constitutional change and that the arrangements for the assembly and the executive remain unchanged.”

Tory former Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson said: “There is widespread disquiet amongst Unionists about the proposed deal because of the concept of a border down the Irish Sea.”

Royal Navy submarine near miss
A ferry travelling across the Irish Sea from Northern Ireland to Scotland (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Smith replied: “The Government through his deal is ensuring that the UK comes out of the EU in whole.

“On the issue of east-west trade, we are doing everything we can to ensure that it will be unfettered access to the GB market and that there will be no barriers to that trade.”

Lib Dem Northern Ireland spokesman Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) raised the issue of customs regulations, arguing the “Withdrawal Agreement is a threat to the future of the Union that is the UK”.

Mr Smith said: “The Withdrawal Agreement is clear that the UK Government is committed to protecting Northern Ireland’s position in the UK internal market and we have guaranteed that Northern Irish businesses and farmers will continue to have unfettered access to the rest of the UK market.”