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No-deal threatens Union, says Lady Sylvia Hermon

Lady Sylvia Hermon
Lady Sylvia Hermon
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Lady Sylvia Hermon has accused the Government of "defending the indefensible" regarding the impact on the Union of a no-deal Brexit.

The independent unionist MP last night challenged the leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg over the Government's position on Brexit during an emergency debate on MPs attempting to take control of parliamentary business.

"Without a deal, there will be an imminent hardening of the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which will incentivise Sinn Fein to agitate for a border poll to take Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom and into a united Ireland," she said. "How on Earth could the right honourable gentleman defend the indefensible?"

Mr Rees-Mogg said he disagreed with Lady Hermon, as neither the British nor Irish Governments wanted to impose a hard border.

Earlier the North Down MP told Prime Minister Boris Johnson that he owed an explanation to the people of Northern Ireland on why he had treated the Good Friday Agreement in a "careless and cavalier manner".

She said: "It is reported that the Crown Solicitor's Office in Belfast has advised the Government that a no-deal Brexit would be in contravention of the GFA (Good Friday Agreement). I am calling on the Prime Minister to publish today, in full - and he owes that to the people of Northern Ireland, and certainly to this House - any legal advice he has received from the Crown Solicitor's Office about how a no-deal Brexit will contravene the Agreement."

But Mr Johnson insisted that it was the backstop and the withdrawal agreement that undermined the "balance of the Good Friday Agreement".

Meanwhile, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said: "The backstop is key to the failure of the withdrawal agreement to pass the House of Commons.

"The anti-democratic nature of the backstop is too often ignored. It would see laws made in Brussels impacting the economy of Northern Ireland with no one in London or Belfast able to vote on them or even ask a question about them.

"The backstop is put forward as necessary for the defence of the Belfast Agreement yet stands against the principle in both that Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement which require the consent of both unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland. There is no unionist party that supports the backstop."

Mr Dodds said such points could be made directly to the Taoiseach if Leo Vardkar dropped his "refusal to sit down and engage directly with unionist representatives".

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