Theresa May: I stick by my Irish border pledge

Charlene Craig
February 7, 2019

Speaking to business leaders on Tuesday during a two-day trip to the region, May said she understood local concerns about the current deadlock in Westminster, where Conservative MPs continued to discuss "alternative arrangements" to the backstop - the backup mechanism created to avoid a hard border set out in the withdrawal agreement May struck with the European Union (EU).

British Prime Minister Theresa May is due in Brussels on Thursday with what she says is a parliamentary mandate to re-open the withdrawal agreement, sealed after 18 months of intense and highly technical negotiations.

During a speech Tuesday in Belfast, May restated her "unshakeable" commitment to avoiding a hard border and said she didn't plan to remove the "insurance policy" entirely. These are still waiting for an alternative backstop based on a maximum facilitation model (a sort of digital border) or, failing that, a legal change that ensures that it is temporary or the United Kingdom 's possibility to unilaterally revoke it.

May discussed putting a time limit on the so-called Irish border backstop in talks with Northern Ireland's Ulster Unionist Party, the party's leader said on Wednesday.

"The Prime Minister has effectively run down the clock and therefore it is impossible to see a way forward without a backstop".

"While there were those in Northern Ireland who favoured it, it is also true that the backstop is not supported by the two main Unionist parties here and it also influenced MPs in England, Scotland and Wales in voting against the deal".

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Prime Minister Theresa May at a community centre during her visit to Belfast.

He said that in a phone conversation with May he left her in no doubt on Ireland's position, based on an agreement between the other 27 countries in the European Union and her government a year ago.

May is now discussing "alternative arrangements" to the backstop with members of her own party.

He added, "What I said to her, and I do mean this, is the fact that the British government and the prime minister resigned from the agreement that they made with 27 other governments demonstrates exactly why the backstop is needed and why we need a legally binding guarantee. It must be how, together, we move forwards to shape the opportunities of the future".

Whatever totally legitimate criticism we want to make of the government's deal, of which there are many; picking out the backstop is not the right one.

On January 15, her withdrawal deal was overwhelmingly voted down by lawmakers.

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He said the European Union would "insist" on the Irish backstop in any United Kingdom withdrawal deal to preserve peace.

"There certainly are voices that argue circumstances have changed but probably this isn't the most propitious time to begin that conversation", he said.

But Wallace said a solution would be found and accused politicians on both sides of the Brexit debate of spouting "hot air" on the border matter.

The changes centre on replacing a measure known as the backstop, created to keep an open border between Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland.

As the party that negotiated the Good Friday agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland, the Labour Party has a solemn duty to be responsible in our approach to the effects of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the Good Friday agreement - no matter how great the desire to see a change in government, we can not forget our responsibility to the peace process and to protecting its integrity.

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