Belfast Telegraph

No-deal Brexit would mean direct rule for Northern Ireland says PM

Northern Ireland has been without devolved government for over two years (Niall Carson/PA)
Northern Ireland has been without devolved government for over two years (Niall Carson/PA)

Direct rule would be needed for Northern Ireland under a no-deal Brexit, Theresa May has said.

With devolved government at Stormont still suspended, Conservative MP Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) asked if "direct decision-making" from Westminster would be needed.

The Prime Minister confirmed a form of direct rule would be needed in Northern Ireland under a no-deal Brexit as she made her latest statement in the Commons.

Mrs Ford said: "Is the Prime Minister suggesting that, in order for Northern Ireland to be ready to leave with no deal, there would need to be some form of direct decision-making by us in this House in the absence of a Stormont government?"

Mrs May replied: "Yes, she is absolutely right - if there is no Stormont government, if powers are needed and ministerial direction is needed which is not available to civil servants currently, it would require some direct application of powers here from Westminster."

Tory MP Richard Graham (Gloucester) asked Mrs May if she agreed it would be "irresponsible for any government to push ahead with no deal" given the circumstances.

The Prime Minister said: "It's about the responsibility to ensure we do have appropriate governance in a no-deal situation where significant decisions would need to be made.

"It's absolutely right and proper the Government has taken the position it has on that matter."

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds criticised the "fundamental lack of preparation" for a no-deal Brexit, adding the "Government's entirely responsible for that".

He said: "The Prime Minister has known for some considerable time, and so has the House, that 29 March was the target date, so why haven't appropriate preparations been made?

Sammy Wilson in the House of Commons.
Sammy Wilson in the House of Commons.

"This is a fundamental lack of preparation and the Government's entirely responsible for that, if that's the case.

"Because this is a new argument, I have to say, Mr Speaker, this is an entirely new argument that we're hearing for the first time as to why we need extension.

"Why is it that the Prime Minister ever agreed to this backstop in the first place, which is the thing that bedevils her agreement?"

On border checks, Mrs May replied: "The legal position is a different one in relation to the necessity to be able to have certain checks taking place and the EU has been clear that EU law would need to be applied in all of these circumstances."

DUP MP Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) claimed the Irish government had made it "quite clear" the premise of the Withdrawal Agreement is "based on a foundation of sand" as there will be "no checks along the Irish border, therefore no threat to peace in Northern Ireland".

He added: "When are you going to stop using Northern Ireland as an excuse, and do you realise that the importance of this agreement to delivering Brexit, and also to the union of the United Kingdom, is such that we will not be used in a scare tactic to push this through?"

Mrs May replied: "What I have genuinely being trying to achieve through everything that I have been doing is ensuring we respect the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and we respect Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom.

"It is the case, as I say, that these remarks about the border have been made by, I think I'm right in saying, the Taoiseach and others previously, and then have been contradicted in turn by the European Commission in terms of what might be necessary."

PA

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