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McDonald: Prime Minister couldn't offer 'any assurance' on future of Withdrawal Agreement

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald does not want a hard Irish border post-Brexit (Liam McBurney/PA)
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald does not want a hard Irish border post-Brexit (Liam McBurney/PA)
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has said Theresa May was unable to give her "any assurance" her Withdrawal Agreement will pass in the Commons.

Ms McDonald spoke to the Prime Minister over the phone on Thursday to reiterate Sinn Fein's opposition to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Earlier this week, Theresa May reached out to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the hopes of agreeing a "compromise plan" on a way forward for Brexit.

The Prime Minister stated, however, that any plan would have to include her Withdrawal Agreement, which has already been rejected by MPs in the Commons on three occasions.

Speaking following the phone call, the Sinn Fein president likened a hard border in Ireland as “akin to putting the Berlin Wall back up”.

“This afternoon we spoke to the British Prime Minister Theresa May and we reiterated our steadfast opposition to a return to a hard border in Ireland," she said.

"Such a scenario would be akin to putting the Berlin Wall back up.

"While the Withdrawal Agreement is imperfect, for Ireland it remains the bottom line. Mrs May was unable to give any assurance that her deal will come to fruition. The prospects of a crash Brexit are high.

"In this scenario it is crucial that the national interests of the island of Ireland are paramount and while we must protect the integrity of the Single Market, we must also recognise that the border is about more than economics – it is about people, agreements and rights.

"In the event of a crash the only way to ensure there will be no return to a hard border is to put the constitutional question to the people in a referendum on unity."

Talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn continued on Thursday.

A Downing Street spokesman said negotiating teams from the Government and Labour met for four and a half hours for "detailed and productive technical talks" on Brexit and they hope to "meet again tomorrow for further work to find a way forward to deliver on the referendum".

Meanwhile, the DUP's Sir Jeffrey Donaldson suggested remaining in the EU customs union could be a "temporary staging post" during future trade talks, leading to speculation the DUP may be prepared to accept a softer Brexit.

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