Saturday, 19 October, 2019

Northern Irish lawmakers demand ‘toxic’ Brexit backstop be replaced

Theresa May is due to report back to the British parliament on her negotiations with the EU on 13 February Theresa May is due to report back to the British parliament on her negotiations with the EU on 13 February
Patty Aguilar | 05 February, 2019, 20:41

He says the backstop violates the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and called for an interim free trade agreement with specific "customs and trade facilitation, to deliver and "invisible and compliant border in Ireland." as set out in a paper last month by Conservative pro-Brexit lawmakers".

On Wednesday Mrs May will hold talks with Northern Ireland's political leaders including the DUP's Arlene Foster, who has promised to tell the Prime Minister the proposed border backstop "drives a coach and horses through the Belfast Agreement's principle of consent" and would effectively create a new border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

But she will insist she can get the backing of MPs for a deal that makes sure there's no border checks after the United Kingdom leaves the EU.

British lawmakers have so far refused to ratify the current Withdrawal Agreement due to the so-called Irish backstop, which would keep the border open and maintain the current trade relationship with the European Union during a transition period.

Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald, centre, Martina Anderson, left, and Michelle O'Neil, right, knock down a "mock" wall on the Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland border, near Newry on January 26.

Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney warned that there are "no credible alternative arrangements" and said the United Kingdom is risking its peace process with Ireland by trying to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement.

"We will be reiterating our opposition to the current backstop and the fact that Parliament has now backed that position means she has a clear mandate to go back to Brussels", Ms Foster said.

Prime Minister Theresa May will start a two-day visit to Northern Ireland on Tuesday to try to bolster support for her divorce deal with the European Union, as she faces fresh pressure to scrap the so-called backstop plan for the Irish border.

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Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill accused the Prime Minister of a "dangerous political U-turn" over her stance on the backstop.

Mrs May is due to travel to Brussels on Thursday for her first face-to-face talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker since the Withdrawal Agreement they reached last November was rejected by the House of Commons.

"What Parliament has said is that they believe there should be changes made to the backstop", which the prime minister said would prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

She said: "While I have said that technology could play a part and that we will look at alternative arrangements, these must be ones that can be made to work for the particular circumstances of Northern Ireland".

And she pledged to work with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to "continue to maintain - and indeed enhance - the strongest possible bilateral partnership between the United Kingdom and Ireland" after Brexit.

On Tuesday, May gave a speech in Belfast, where she pledged to not leave Northern Ireland behind during her discussions in Brussels.

The EU insists that the deal "remains the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal", but with the clock running down until the March 29 exit date the risks of a no-deal Brexit for both Britain and the bloc are coming into sharp focus.

'The problem is that none of those ideas around alternative arrangements stand up to scrutiny, we have certainly not seen any that have'.

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