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Legal promise of no customs border in Irish Sea great news for economy: DUP

By Staff Reporter

Theresa May yesterday agreed to give a legal guarantee that there will be no customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom after Brexit.

The Prime Minister accepted the controversial amendment to the Customs Bill - which was supported by the DUP - in a bid to fend off a revolt by Brexiteers in the House of Commons.

But the commitment would effectively kill off the European Union's proposal to allow Northern Ireland to remain in the customs union if there was no deal.

Mrs May scraped through crucial Brexit votes - escaping defeat by just three votes on two proposals - but was hit by another resignation when Defence Minister Guto Bebb voted against the Government, effectively quitting his frontbench role.

During stormy scenes, former Cabinet minister David Davis said "the most difficult issue" was that of the border in Northern Ireland, adding: "There's no way that a UK Government is ever going to install a hard border in Northern Ireland."

Mr Davis said: "There may be 300 border crossings, but there are only six ports. So rest of world imports can actually be surveilled and controlled very straightforwardly.

"So the issue which has got much more difficult since becoming politicised, it was actually working quite well in negotiations before it became politicised is eminently soluble, soluble by technical means, soluble by co-operation between the two states."

Spekaing later Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: "We're delighted this amendment was approved unanimously and without division.

"There is now a legal guarantee of no customs border in the Irish Sea and that's great news for our economy.

"Whatever the outcome of Brexit we can continue to have unfettered access to the UK single market.

"We have been pushing for this for some time and it was supported by all the political parties. Without this guarantee business in Northern Ireland could have been seriously disadvantaged."

But SDLP MLA Claire Hanna SDLP said the people of Northern Ireland "were the real casualties tonight" and slammed Sinn Fein for failing to take their seats in Westminster.

She said: "Time and time again, the SDLP are crucified for our willingness, and in fact desire to take our seats in Westminster for reasons as tonight perfectly illustrated.

"The SDLP, as people here want and need us to, would have said no to reckless Tory Brexiteers and the ideologically driven DUP who care more about delivering on their facade of 'taking back control' than actually delivering for their constituents.

"The writing is on the wall, and written in bold; Remain voters and nationalism has been let down and brought one step closer to catastrophic no-deal Brexit."

She added: "There are many ways to influence Brexit but this limping, destructive government just won by three votes.

"Ten DUP MPs are chasing extreme Brexit and seven Sinn Fein MPs don't show up - either or both could have comfortably protected the interests of people here."

Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane said London must "keep to its political promise to give legal effect to a backstop for the north".

He said: "It has been increasingly clear for some months now that the British Government sees an overall trade agreement as the best way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

"However, the backstop was agreed in case no such overall agreement comes to pass. It is an insurance policy, one that cannot be taken off the table while negotiations are ongoing."

Meanwhile, DUP MP Sammy Wilson dismissed calls for a second Brexit referendum as "hair-brained and divisive".

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