Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's McDonald: May's Brexit defeat shows 'absolute disregard for the people of Ireland'

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Niall Carson/PA)
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald has hit out at the defeat of Theresa May's Brexit deal, claiming it shows an "absolute disregard for the people of Ireland".

Mrs McDonald was speaking after the Prime Minister's latest deal was defeated in the Commons by 149 votes.

“We are 17 days away from Brexit and the uncertainty and confusion continues,” she said.

“A crash out Brexit would be unthinkable for the peace process, jobs, trade and to the loss of people’s rights and quality of life, particularly in border communities.

“There is now a need to intensify planning for a no-deal crash with an imperative to ensure no return to a hard border, protections of our agreements and safeguarding the rights of citizens.”

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney expressed disappointment at the outcome of the vote, but urged the need to be “patient and calm to allow this process in Westminster to take its course”.

Veteran European Parliamentarian Jim Nicholson (UUP) claimed the defeat should come as no surprise as there were “no meaningful changes” to the deal.

“We want a deal but we want a good deal – a deal that will not compromise the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom,” he said.

“It is in the best interests of the EU and UK to use their best efforts to work towards a workable deal, in order to avoid a no deal Brexit.

“Calm heads are needed now and a short technical extension should be seriously considered.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood expressed disappointment at the vote, but said Westminster will “have to accept the backstop at some point”.

“Sooner or later, the British Parliament is going to have to support a backstop for Northern Ireland or else support no Brexit at all – there is no happy medium between these two eventualities,” he said.

“The bottom line is that the backstop, aside from scrapping Brexit entirely, is our only insurance policy against a hard border.

“Until MPs accept this reality, Article 50 should be extended to avoid us crashing out of the EU without a deal.”

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has called for a second referendum.

“The clearest, most coherent and most democratic route through this impasse lies with a People’s Vote, including both the Prime Minister’s deal and the Remain option,” she said.

“This needs to be tested in Parliament as a matter of urgency.”

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