Belfast Telegraph

Stormont backstop role 'unacceptable'

By David Young

Stormont should not have a say over the Brexit backstop, nationalists in Northern Ireland have said.

The UK Government is expected to table new proposals in a bid to break the Irish border impasse, but a role for the devolved Assembly has been speculated.

The DUP is adamantly opposed to any solution which would see any divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Consulting Stormont on the backstop could effectively give the DUP a veto on a deal.

Pro-Remain parties including the SDLP and Sinn Fein met EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday.

The Green Party and Alliance Party were also represented.

During a post-meeting press conference, SDLP and Sinn Fein leaders Colum Eastwood and Michelle O'Neill said that giving the suspended Stormont Assembly in Belfast any say over the backstop would be unacceptable.

Mr Eastwood said: "The time to deliver on a deal is now. The North cannot be left to the fate of a reckless, no-deal Brexit."

Ms O'Neill, Sinn Fein's deputy leader, said the meeting signified a clear show of unity against Brexit by the pro-remain Assembly parties.

Ms O'Neill said: "The parties stood together in the heart of the EU to make it absolutely clear that the DUP and British Government do not represent the cross-community majority of people of the North who voted against Brexit, and who do not want us to be excluded from the customs union or single market which only serves to increase business costs, and hamper trade, jobs and economic opportunity.

She added: "We asserted our common position that the backstop as already agreed must be maintained and is the absolute bottom line for Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance and Green Party."

Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry said: "Our four parties have different views and policies but on Brexit there is common ground, which is also the view of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, who voted Remain in the EU Referendum.

"There is therefore rightly an expectation parties will work together where they agree and from today's meetings, it is clear that collective voice is greater than the sum of its parts."

DUP MP Sammy Wilson took to Twitter to warn the Prime Minister against any form of U-turn.

He said: "If she is rolling back on her pledge that there will be no barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, then the Prime Minister should be under no illusions; we will vote against her deal and it will go nowhere."

Both the EU and UK have expressed hope a deal can be reached to avoid a hard Brexit.

Time is running out to secure an agreement and ratify it before the UK leaves in March.

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