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Liz Truss warning of 'difficult choices' on Irish border in no-deal Brexit angers Sinn Fein

'Flippant and typical' of government attitudes, says Sinn Fein

A UK Government minister who admitted to having "no fear" of a no-deal Brexit said "we are in an era of difficult choices," when asked about the potential issues that would pose for the Irish border.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss did however stress she wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit and wanted to see Prime Minister Theresa May's deal pass through the Commons. It however, has been defeated three times the most recent on Friday and by a majority of 58.

Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill described the comments as "flippant and typical" of the Government's attitude to Irish interests.

Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme she said there was a need to get through the first phase of the process by getting the withdrawal agreement the support required to get through parliament.

She said the prime minister's deal was the most "thought through option" while "quiet a lot of these other ideas had been dreamt up on the back of envelope and won't necessarily pass muster".

It is not like there is a brilliant idea out there that everyone wants to vote for.

Ms Truss said: "I think that we are well prepared for no deal ... I don't have any fear of no deal."

On the issues a no-deal Brexit would cause for the island of Ireland, the MP said solutions could be found and interim solutions had already been put forward. She said the EU had its own alternative arrangements for a no-deal Brexit.

"We are in an era of difficult choices," she said when it was put to her a no-deal would mean a hard border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

"I am not saying we should have a hard border at all, solutions have been come up with that don't involve a hard border, that involve doing checks elsewhere, using the existing checking systems we already have for trade that takes place.

"This is not ideal, I don't deny it at all."

She added: "I don't want a no-deal Brexit, I want the Prime Minister's deal to go through. What I am saying is loss of trust in British politicians and British politics would be diasterous."

Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said the comments were "flippant" and "fairly typical of how the British Government treats our peace process" and Irish interests in general throughout the Brexit process.

"For the last 20 years we have been about a peace process .. and the biggest symbol of peace has actually been the removal of borders," she said.


The minister's comments come as MPs are once again to consider a series of alternative Brexit plans in the Commons on Monday. Liz Truss said the government's plans was the "most supported" and "most thought through" of all the options.

Last week all eight options put forward by MPs were rejected. An alternative on an enhanced and closer customs union with the UK was defeated by just six votes.


Liz Truss (Victoria Jones/PA)

Liz Truss (Victoria Jones/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Liz Truss (Victoria Jones/PA)


Ms Truss continued: "We need to get through to the next phase, the trade agreement talks. People forget this is only the first phase."

She said, from the indications of the votes in parliament, "it is not clear to me that going softer is the way to command support".

"It is not like there is a brilliant idea out there that everyone wants to vote for.

"The fact is parliament is not agreed, The proposition that has got the most support so far is the Prime Minister's deal."

She said the idea of a customs union was "problematic" and would very strongly argue against it.

"It would mean control of our trade policy sat with the European Union whilst we were no longer a member, we would have no influence. That would have consequences for our foreign policy, we wouldn't be able to strike independent trade deals.

She added: "I'll be arguing we should follow alternative path."

"I think the answer lies in modifications of the prime minister's deal."

She said modifications had already been made by separating the withdrawal agreement, which deals with the separation, and the political declaration, which deals with the future relationship between the EU and UK.

She said it was "disgraceful" MPs who had stood on a manifesto to deliver Brexit had not supported the Prime Minister's deal.

"The cabinet is determined to make sure we leave the EU," she said.

Belfast Telegraph