Belfast Telegraph

No backstop, no Brexit deal: Irish Government stands firm after Commons vote

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

The Irish Government has said there will be no Brexit withdrawal agreement without a backstop arrangement in place.

It comes after MPs agreed to an amendment to the Downing Street backed Customs Bill which supporters have claimed ends the prospect of a customs border in the Irish sea.

The amendment was backed by the DUP and leading Conservative Party Brexiteers including Jacob Rees-Mogg.

They have claimed the amendments effectively end the EU's 'Backstop' customs plan which would have seen Northern Ireland remain in the Customs Union in the event of a no-deal Brexit to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The SDLP and Alliance Party have said that the amendment makes a no-deal Brexit and hard border in Ireland more likely.

Responding to the vote a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson made it clear that the Irish Government's position on the backstop had not changed.

"It is fully accepted and understood that there can be no withdrawal agreement without a legally operable backstop ensuring that there will be no hard border," a spokesperson said.

Speaking after the amendment was passed Fianna Fail leader Michael Martin said the anti-Brexit majority in Northern Ireland was not represented in Westminster claiming hardline Brexiteers won the vote because of Sinn Fein's absence.

The Irish Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan accused Sinn Fein of "plunging the British PM into the clutches of hard Brexiteers again".

However, DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the outcome of the Westminster votes had strengthened the UK's hand in the Brexit negotiations.

"The DUP were proud to be able to deliver their support in two crucial votes in the House of Commons last night," he said.

"Votes which will ensure the United Kingdom will have a stronger hand in negotiations with the EU."

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