Belfast Telegraph

EU will have to bend if Commons blocks a crashout: Sammy Wilson

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

DUP MP Sammy Wilson says the EU will be forced to "sit down and talk seriously" if Opposition MPs manage to block a no-deal Brexit.

The party's Brexit spokesman made his comments after Mr Barnier said the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is "none of the EU's business".

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Barnier said there were many "misrepresentations" over the backstop - the insurance policy agreed between the EU and UK under Theresa May to prevent a hard border in Ireland.

As he bid to set the record straight on the backstop - the main sticking point in the UK's exit from the bloc - Mr Barnier said its aim was to manage the "unique" risks the departure created for Northern Ireland.

Mr Barnier also said it would be a surprise to him if many people in the UK thought blame lay with the EU if the UK crashed out without a deal.

He repeated that should this happen, the same obstacles would remain and the EU would be forced to protect its interests.

He wrote: "It is not about changing the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. That is none of the EU's business, as it is the Good Friday Agreement - an agreement between the British and Irish Governments and political parties in Northern Ireland - that settles how Northern Ireland should be governed."

Mr Barnier said the backstop - which provides Northern Ireland with the economic benefits of the single market for goods - "fully respects the carefully negotiated balance found in that agreement between the competing political views and different identities in Northern Ireland".

In response, Mr Wilson said he wasn't surprised by Mr Barnier's remarks: "He is being encouraged in this intransigent stance by those who are doing their best to thwart the Prime Minister's plan to try and negotiate a deal but use the leverage of a no-deal to get a sensible deal."

His comments come ahead of another pivotal week in the Commons and an expected clash when opponents of no-deal look set to try and seize control of the parliamentary agenda to push through legislation delaying Brexit beyond October 31.

"Those who have said that they are going to try and stop him doing that this week will encourage the EU in the belief that they can still get away with the sell-out deal that Mrs May negotiated with them," Mr Wilson added.

"They will test what happens in Parliament this week and see if the Prime Minister is stopped in his plan to move towards October 31 and leave whether there is a deal or not. But they will only get one chance at this and if they get the numbers to push through legislation, then I imagine there will be a fairly crucial House of Commons vote that will either tie the Government's hands or, if defeated, free the Government to go to Europe.

"At that stage you'll find that Barnier and co will start moving.

"They'll know that the last throw of the dice has been made so it will be time to sit down and talk seriously."

Welcoming Mr Barnier's comments, the Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said those thinking the EU would change its position at the 11th hour were "deluding themselves".

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