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  • Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster and Nigel Doggo leave Downing Street, London.

    Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster and Nigel Doggo leave Downing Street, London. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 February 2019
Opinion

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party said that for Theresa May to achieve an orderly Brexit, the border backstop needs to be replaced.

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

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“The current backstop, as I have said all along, is toxic to those of us living in Northern Ireland,” DUP leader Arlene Foster, who will meet May in Belfast Wednesday, told BBC radio.

Foster refused to say whether the deal would have to be renegotiated or whether she would accept legally binding assurances.

“If the backstop is dealt with in the withdrawal agreement then, despite the fact we may have misgivings around other parts of the withdrawal agreement, we will support the prime minister because we do want Brexit to happen in an orderly and sustained fashion,” she said.

Britain, Ireland and the EU want to avoid physical checks on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland that ceased with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The border is now open with no controls as both the United Kingdom and Ireland are part of the EU.

But when the United Kingdom leaves the EU’s Single Market and Customs Union the EU does not want the 310-mile (500-km) border to become a backdoor into the bloc without customs and regulatory checks.

As a way to prevent a hard border, Brussels and London agreed on a so-called backstop - basically a promise that unless the sides come up with a better idea then the United Kingdom would remain bound by EU market and customs rules so that goods would not have to be checked.

The backstop is the most contentious part of the rejected deal in Britain. The DUP says it could endanger Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom while Brexit supporters in May’s Conservative Party fear being locked into EU rules long-term.

May will travel to Brussels Thursday to tell European Union leaders they must accept legally binding changes to the Irish border arrangements of the divorce deal or face the prospect of a disorderly no-deal Brexit.

Since British lawmakers voted down the withdrawal agreement last month, parliament has instructed May to replace its most contentious element — an insurance policy covering the possible future arrangements for the border between EU-member Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

May will try to use a visit to Northern Ireland Tuesday to reassure communities that she can deliver an orderly Brexit that will ensure peace in a province riven by three decades of sectarian conflict until a 1998 accord.

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