Belfast Telegraph

DUP pressed PM on getting Brexit deal - Sinn Fein says May came to Belfast with 'no plan, no credibility and no honour'

By Jonathan Bell and PA

The DUP described its meeting with the Prime Minister at Stormont as another useful opportunity to press for a Brexit deal to avoid the UK crashing out of the EU.

Sinn Fein, however was scathing saying Theresa May came to Belfast with "no plan, no credibility and no honour".

The Prime Minister met with the five main parties at Stormont to discuss Brexit and the ongoing political vacuum in Northern Ireland. Although she came round to the latter "reluctantly" according to the UUP.

The Prime Minister travels to Brussels on Thursday to meet with EU officials after she pledged to get changes to the withdrawal agreement - something the EU has rejected.

A protest was held outside the building by campaigners calling for MLAs to restore power sharing and "get back to work". They held placards saying "build bridges not walls" describing Brexit as the "emperor's new clothes".

DUP Leader Arlene Foster speaks to a protester as the DUP met with PM Theresa May during her visit to Northern Ireland. Photo Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker Press

Following their meeting, Arlene Foster said they reiterated their issues with the current deal, saying the Brady amendment was the way forward. It called for "alternative arrangements" to be found to the Irish backstop.

"The backstop would undermine the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom... it is the main problem" the DUP leader said.

"The Prime Minister made commitments that there would be legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement. That is what is needed.

"It is welcome that the Prime Minister is travelling to Brussels to seek changes but she must stand strong and by the commitments she made to the House of Commons.

"We want a deal. One that works for us as well as our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland. But we must face reality. There is no 'agreement' unless it is able to command the necessary support in Parliament.”

Playing chicken unacceptable. Mary Lou McDonald

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald described their meeting as "very direct".

"We are now 51 days from the Brexit deadline and the British Prime Minister has come here empty handed with the same old rhetoric with no plan, no credibility and frankly no honour," she said.

"We have told her that the British strategy of running down the clock and playing a game of chicken with Ireland and Irish interests is profoundly unacceptable and wrong.

"We have told her that the days of Britain dictating to Ireland or Irish people, that those days are over and will not return.

"We have told her that the backstop is the bottom line, the bare minimum requirements to meet Irish interests, to protect the Good Friday Agreement, to prevent a hardening of the border, to in some way mitigate citizens' rights.

Mrs McDonald added: "We reminded her that when we last met before Christmas, she in fact understood that case, in fact she went to some lengths to articulate that position to us, and therefore she has acted with her eyes wide open in absolute bad faith.

"We regard the position adopted by Mrs May and her government as one of hostility to Irish interests, we have told her that Irish public and political opinion is united on the matter of protecting Ireland north and south, and we have told her that certainly we will not blink.

"We have advised her that if her strategy is to continue to play a long ball, to brazen this scenario out in the hope that she will get her way, then she is much mistaken.

"We have told her that pandering again to the DUP is wrong on every level and we have reminded her that the DUP do not represent the views of the people of the north of island, or indeed the island as a whole."

LIVE: Sinn Fein statement after Brexit talks with PM

Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said she told the PM that “the time for reiterating red lines and regurgitating reassurances has long gone”.

“What we need now, and the only lines we are interested in, are black and white on paper, an actual deal,” said Ms Long.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood told the PM that there were “no alternatives to the backstop”.

"Last week's vote - the Brady amendment - was a betrayal of everything that was said before that, of the people of Northern Ireland and of all the political progress that we have made," he said.

"The bottom line is this - for the people of Northern Ireland, for our peace process, for all of our political progress, we need to remain within the customs union and single market in order to avoid a hard border.

"I think that will begin to be understood at all levels in the British parliament because they don't have an alternative. They talk about vague alternatives but there aren't any alternatives."

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