Brexit: Ireland says no EU agreement 'without backstop'
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Brexit: Ireland says no EU agreement ‘without backstop’

Brexit: Ireland says no EU agreement 'without backstop'
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There can be no Brexit Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has said.

“It is fully accepted and understood that there can be no Withdrawal Agreement without a legally operable backstop ensuring that there will be no hard border,” a spokesperson said.

It was responding to Monday night’s vote in the House of Commons.

The vote effectively rendered the EU’s version of the backstop unlawful.

The EU’s proposal would have kept Northern Ireland in the single market for goods, ensuring that rules and regulations on things like animal welfare and food safety remain the same on both sides of the border.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs said it had been the UK government’s position that customs checks between Northern Ireland the rest of the UK are unacceptable, so it was not surprising that the amendment to the Customs Bill was accepted.

It said the UK has also “repeatedly committed to avoiding a hard border [on] the island of Ireland, most recently in last week’s White Paper”.

“In fact, the Withdrawal Act, passed last month, legally binds the UK government to this commitment,” it added.

It said the Irish government had always been clear that its “first preference, in terms of avoiding a hard border, is through the closest possible future EU-UK relationship”.

“It is not for the Irish government to comment on the internal politics and legislative processes of the UK… what matters is that the British government is able to engage in serious negotiations with the commission.”

The Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, has expressed his concern about the implications of the latest Brexit votes in the Commons saying the Prime Minister, Theresa May, had lost room to manoeuvre in negotiations with the EU.

He said that if the SDLP still had representatives in Westminster they would have worked to defeat the votes, referring to Sinn Féin’s abstentionist stance.

“What happened… was not constructive and is damaging to the entire island of Ireland,” he said.

“It is the once in a generation issue that trumps every other issue, I think that the abstentionist position of Sinn Féin is not helping the overall Irish cause,” he added.

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‘Cowardice’

Earlier, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accused Prime Minister Theresa May of “cowardice” and caving into the demands of hard-line Brexiteers.

It followed the government decision on Monday to agree to a legal guaranteethat there will be no post-Brexit customs border in the Irish Sea.

The SDLP and Alliance said there is now a real danger of the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal.

However, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said the move would preserve peace.

The proposers of “New Clause 37” – an amendment to the Customs Bill – argued that it would prevent a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

On Monday night, MPs approved the clause without going to a vote, but two other amendments tabled by Tory Brexiteers scraped through by just three votes in the Commons.

Media caption‘The Good Friday Agreement has been thrown around willy nilly’

New Clause 37 directly contradicts the EU’s legal draft of the so-called “Irish backstop”, which suggested Northern Ireland should be treated as part of the European Union’s customs territory.

That legal version of the backstop has already been rejected by Mrs May. However, the prime minister has said she will abide by the principles of a protocol on a future backstop which it negotiated with Brussels in December.

The amendment was backed by both the DUP and the pro-Brexit Conservative European Research Group or ERG.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 and Parliament is considering a number of new laws needed to prepare for this and for life after the end of a proposed transition period.

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