Brexit promoters deserve a 'special place in hell,' European Union official says

07 February, 2019, 03:43 | Author: Rachel Logan
  • May reassures ‘full protection for cross-border cooperation

MPs last week backed a plan to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements created to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, and Downing Street has repeatedly insisted the withdrawal deal agreed by the European Union in December would need to be reopened in order to address those concerns.

With Britain's Parliament at odds over Brexit, Prime Minister Theresa May gathered pro-Brexit and pro-EU Conservative lawmakers into an "alternative arrangements working group" seeking to break the deadlock. The changes center on replacing a measure known as the backstop, created to keep an open border between the United Kingdom's Northern Ireland and European Union member state Ireland.

Mrs May described her commitment to maintaining the Good Friday Agreement and avoiding a hard border as "unshakeable", in a speech to business leaders in Belfast on Tuesday, telling media, "I'm not proposing to persuade people to accept a deal that does not contain that insurance policy for the future". "There is no way to have a unilateral jumping out of the backstop".

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar held a press conference with Mr. Tusk in Brussels, where both leaders addressed the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

However, he said there were no preparations being made for infrastructure on the Irish border.

The Ulster Unionist Party had met the British Prime Minister first, and leader Robin Swann said his party had a "very clear message" for the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May, has said that "there will be no hard border" on the island of Ireland.

Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29, and many businesses fear economic chaos if there isn't an agreement on the rules and conditions that will replace the 45 years of frictionless trade that came with being an European Union member.

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He said he had concerns about the idea of "alternative arrangements" and that it could not result in the "deletion" of the backstop, while Mr Juncker said the backstop was needed for "obvious, vital reasons" and it could not be abandoned.

"We can have those conversations, so we can use the remaining time to perhaps remove the obstacles that have so far stood in the way and find an agreement if everyone is willing".

Back in London, the prime minister has been criticised for prioritising a compromise with her own backbenchers and the DUP rather than reaching out to secure cross-party support for her deal.

The border has been open since the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998, which largely ended 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Addressing business leaders in the Northern Ireland capital, May said that "both the United Kingdom and the Irish governments have already made clear that we would support the tantalising possibility of a joint United Kingdom and Ireland World Cup Bid for 2030, should our respective football associations choose to pursue this".

"I think events in London and the instability in British politics in recent weeks demonstrates exactly why we need a legal guarantee and solution that's operable and that we know will work and last", he said.

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which has propped up May's government since she lost her parliamentary majority in a 2017 snap election, said it wanted to get a deal agreed but the border backstop had to be replaced.

A failure to move forward in February would mean increased prospects of an extension to the Article 50 process, which may only kick the can down the road, or the political and economic shock of a no-deal Brexit.

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