Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein demand Taoiseach speak up for Northern Ireland with hard Brexit looming

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill has called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to speak up and protect Northern Ireland's interests with a hard Brexit looking more likely following a night of voting in Westminster on Monday.

Mrs O'Neill was speaking after MPs backed an amendment which supporters have claimed ends the prospect of a customs border in the Irish sea.

The DUP and pro-Brexit members of the Conservative Party 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

Mrs O'Neill said that the British Government had "tore up" its own Brexit proposals.

The Mid-Ulster MLA called on the Taoiseach to prioritise "cast-iron legal guarantees to protect Ireland’s interests".

Speaking on Tuesday an Irish 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.

Michelle O'Neill said that action needed to be taken following the events in Westminster on Monday evening.

“What Theresa May did last night was effectively tear up her own proposals from Chequers. Her Government is in chaos and in her rush to placate the DUP and the Brexiteers, she has now made a ‘no deal’ crash scenario much more likely," the Sinn Fein deputy leader said.

“That is reckless. A crash will have a devastating impact on the island of Ireland so there is now an increased onus on the Irish Government and our EU partners to ensure our national interests are protected in the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

“Their commitments to safeguard the letter and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement; to prevent any hard border on the island of Ireland and to protect citizens’ rights must be fully honoured.

Mrs O'Neill called on the Irish Government to urgently address the issue of the backstop

 “In light of the British Government’s duplicity, cast-iron legal assurances are clearly now required to protect the Irish protocol and backstop. This must be urgently prioritised by the Dublin Government when the EU's General Affairs Council meets on Friday,” she said.

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