Belfast Telegraph

More time needed for better Brexit deal says UUP's Swann

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann has called on the Prime Minister to make plans to extend Article 50, to give the UK time to negotiate a new Brexit deal.

Reacting to Theresa May's address to the House of Commons in the Brexit debate yesterday, Mr Swann said a new agreement had to "respect the integrity of the UK" and offer a path of political and economic certainty.

"Instability of any type, not least constitutional, is in no-one's interests," the North Antrim MLA said.

"As a responsible political party committed to working for all the people of Northern Ireland and maintaining the Union, nobody more than us wants to see a prosperous and stable Northern Ireland," he said.

TUV leader Jim Allister claimed the Prime Minister's speech was deceptive on the backstop.

"The pretence that there is an exit from the backstop because those (EU) who made it the price of the deal will one day let us out, because it doesn't actually suit them - such delusion," he said.

"Mrs May's deal is not Brexit; it is craven subjection which keeps the UK tethered to the EU.

"Worse than that, it betrays Northern Ireland's integral position in the UK.

"It is essential to our economic and constitutional stability that this perfidious deal is defeated."

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said the "latest wranglings" at Westminster were "little more than theatre which is motivated by the civil war in the Tory party rather than substantive issues".

"The DUP is playing a full role in this circus while ignoring the clear will of citizens and industry here who are opposed to Brexit and opposed to any attempt to renegotiate or dilute the backstop as contained in the Withdrawal Agreement," she said.

"But the backstop is the bottom line.

"That is the position of the four pro-Remain parties.

"It is the position of the farming sector, business, the community sector and our universities.

"How long does the DUP intend on ignoring and opposing the wishes of the people they claim to represent?

"And while they huff and puff in Westminster about Brexit, the DUP should reflect on the fact that they are the same party that continues to prop up the Tory government and the savage austerity cuts which it is imposing on our public services."

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan hit out at Sinn Fein's abstentionist policy at Westminster.

"The future of the North lies in the balance of a few votes within the House of Commons," he said.

"Sinn Fein have the opportunity now to save Northern Ireland from the brink of economic, social and political disaster.

"If Sinn Fein do not take their seats and exercise their vote, not only are they letting hardliner Tory British MPs again disregard the views of people here, but they are also letting the DUP get their own way.

"No-one who voted Remain voted for that."

The West Tyrone MLA said Mrs May's Brexit deal was "the best the North will get".

He added: "Sinn Fein have seven MPs and seven votes that could see this deal through.

"Sinn Fein's votes could make all the difference in preventing a hard Brexit, in preventing a hard border and in securing the futures of people and business here.".

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said his party believed Brexit must be reconsidered.

"Any chance for a people's vote should be taken, and in that regard the opportunity should be taken now to test an amendment to put the Prime Minister's deal to the public," the North Down MLA said.

"In parallel, we do need to bank the backstop.

"The future is very uncertain and we must avoid a no deal at all costs."

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