Belfast Telegraph

Prime Minister's refusal to answer question on Brexit backstop time-limit 'slippery,' says DUP MLA Stalford

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

A DUP MLA described the Prime Minister's refusal to answer questions on when any backstop proposal would end in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as "slippery".

South Belfast representative Christopher Stalford pointed out the Prime Minister had been asked four times about publishing a date when this proposed backstop will end, after she delivered a statement on the latest progress on the Brexit talks.

"Expect that number to rise before this session is over. Slippery," he tweeted.

Later it was reported eight MPs asked for a reassurance on a time-limit - something the EU has resisted  and none "got a clear answer".

During her Commons statement Mrs May reaffirmed she could "never accept" any deal which would separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

She called for "cool, calm heads to prevail" after talks at the weekend failed to bridge differences between the UK and EU over the future status of the border in Ireland.

Mrs May told MPs keeping Northern Ireland within the EU's customs area was not acceptable as it risked undermining the integrity of the UK.

The PM warned that the Irish issue must not be allowed to "derail" progress towards a deal which she said was in the interests of both the UK and EU.

She told MPs she would take steps to ensure "we cannot be kept in this backstop arrangement indefinitely".

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said that while no one wanted a border on the island of Ireland it was "never right" for a border to be placed down the Irish Sea.

Quoting the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson who also said there could never be a border of any kind down the Irish Sea he asked for the Prime Minister to confirm any deal which "carved off" Northern Ireland leaving it in the EU customs union and parts of the single market and "separated through a border in the Irish Sea from the UK's own internal market, could never be accepted by her".

"Will she confirm it is single market and customs union, the UK leaving the EU together with no part hived off either in the single market or customs differences?"

A situation where NI businesses can both export freely to Great Britain and the EU... would be a good position for those Northern Ireland businesses. Theresa May

The Prime Minister reaffirmed that the UK would leave the EU but said a deal which allowed Northern Ireland to export freely to both the rest of the UK and Ireland would be beneficial to business.

"We will be leaving the European Union together. I am very clear there should be no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland but as we put forward proposals we can deliver on that and maintain the integrity of our union," she said.

"And we have made that very clear when the EU made their proposal which would have effectively carved Northern Ireland away from the rest of the UK in their backstop proposal.

Christopher Stalford's tweet.
Christopher Stalford's tweet.

"It is precisely why we can not accept their backstop to the backstop because they continue to want to see that. What we want to see in a backstop is a situation where Northern Ireland businesses can both export freely to Great Britain and the EU.

"Actually that would be a good position for those Northern Ireland businesses."

Later South Belfast DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly asked for a firm commitment that nothing would be agreed with the EU which would exclude Northern Ireland from future trade deals.

The Prime Minister rejected this saying any future trade deal would be for the whole UK including Northern Ireland.

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