Belfast Telegraph

EU doesn't respect Northern Ireland will remain part of UK after Brexit: Theresa May

There will be no Irish Sea border, says Prime Minister

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Theresa May has said she will work to ensure there is no hard border in Ireland, even in the event of a no deal Brexit.

Following the rejection of her Chequers plans by EU leaders in Salzburg Mrs May said the EU "did not respect" that Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK after Brexit.

She reiterated there would never be a border in the Irish Sea.

Mrs May demanded the EU come up with new proposals to break the current "impasse".

In a defiant final message, the prime minister said: "The EU should be clear: I will not overturn the result of the referendum. Nor will I break up my country.

"We need serious engagement on resolving the two big problems in the negotiations. We stand ready."

The move comes after European Council President Donald Tusk ripped up Mrs May’s blueprint for Brexit on Thursday, saying it risked the integrity of the EU single market and the Northern Ireland border.

Mrs May, speaking inside 10 Downing Street, said: "I have always said that these negotiations would be tough, and they were always bound to be toughest in the final straight.

"While both sides want a deal, we have to face up to the fact that despite the progress we have made there are two big issues where we remain a long way apart."

Mrs May said the first issue was Britain's economic relationship with the EU after Brexit. She said the EU standpoint would see a border in the Irish Sea, something she could not countenance and something which parliament has already rejected.

She said: "We both agree that the Withdrawal Agreement needs to include a backstop to ensure that if there's a delay in implementing our new relationship, there still won't be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"But the EU is proposing to achieve this by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union.

"As I have already said, that is unacceptable. We will never agree to it. It would mean breaking up our country."

Mrs May added the negotiations were at an "impasse", saying: "Yesterday, Donald Tusk said our proposals would undermine the single market. He didn't explain how in any detail or make any counter-proposal. So we are at an impasse."

On the post Brexit economic relationship, she added: "Here the EU is still only offering us two options. The first option would involve the UK staying in the European Economic Area and a customs union with the EU.

"In plain English, this would mean we'd still have to abide by the all EU rules: uncontrolled immigration from the EU would continue and we couldn't do trade deals we want with other countries.

"That would make a mockery of the referendum we had two years ago."

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