Belfast Telegraph

Theresa May: There will be no Brexit deal without Irish backstop

By Gareth Cross and PA

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that no Brexit deal can be agreed with the European Union that doesn't include a backstop agreement to stop a hard Brexit in Ireland.

The Prime Minister held a press conference on Thursday evening after a hectic day in which a number of cabinet ministers resigned and multiple Tory MPs submitted letters of no confidence in her leadership.  

Mrs May said that she believed the draft EU withdrawal agreement was the best deal for the whole of the UK with "every fibre of my being."

She accepted that some MPs disagreed with her and said that they must "do what they think is right".

The Prime Minister said that the draft deal met all the conditions promised before the Brexit referendum and said the British public wanted the government to "get on with it".

She said that the EU would not agree to a deal without a backstop in place for Northern Ireland.

"Nobody has produced any alternative proposal that delivers on the referendum and delivers no hard border in Ireland," Mrs May said.

"There is no deal that can be agreed that does not include a backstop, reneging on that would break a promise to the people of Northern Ireland and collapse hopes of a deal."

The backstop is intended to prevent the return of a hard border in Ireland if there is no agreement in place on the future relationship between the UK and EU.

It would create a single EU-UK customs territory with the UK continuing to follow EU tariffs and customs rules, avoiding the need for checks between the EU and UK – including between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

In addition however, Northern Ireland would be required to remain aligned with some EU single market rules.

The agreement makes clear the arrangement is meant to be temporary, but sets no final end date. Ending the arrangement would be by mutual agreement by both sides.

The Prime Minister said that a no-deal Brexit would plunge the country into a "path of uncertainty", with nobody being sure what would happen.

When asked about a potential challenge to her leadership Mrs May said that she was determined to see the Brexit deal through.

"Leadership is about taking the right decisions not the easy ones, my job is to bring back a deal that delivers on the vote of the British people," she said.

The Prime Minister rejected calls for a second referendum and said that she had a "busy day" and had not yet decided on any potential replacements in her cabinet.

Pressure is mounting on the Prime Minister with a number of Tory MPs confirming that they have submitted letters of no confidence in Mrs May.

There will need to be 48 letters of no confidence submitted to trigger a formal vote of confidence in Mrs May's leadership.

She would then need a majority of Tory MPs to back her leadership to remain Prime Minister.

The DUP have accused the Prime Minister of breaking promises agreed as part of their confidence and supply agreement.

In a statement on Thursday evening, the party's East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said an "impossible hard border" had been used as a "bargaining chip" by the EU.

"The Prime Minister should have nailed this right at the outset. There is no circumstance and no possible fall-back whereby a 'hard border' would have been put in place," said Mr Campbell.

"With three hundred crossing points, no matter who would have tried to locate checkpoints or infrastructure at the border, it would have been circumvented by everyone with ease and regarded with ridicule. The inordinate waste of time and resources negotiating to prevent something that was never going to happen is deplorable but has been used by the EU as an enormous bargaining chip."

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said that the deal treats Northern Ireland differently than the rest of the UK.

 "The choice is now clear. We stand up for the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom or we vote for a vassal state and the break up of the United Kingdom- that's the choice," he said.

The Prime Minister rejected claims that she has betrayed the DUP and said that she believed the draft deal was the best solution of the whole of the UK.

Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has submitted a letter of no confidence and called for the Prime Minister to stand aside.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who chairs the European Research Group of Eurosceptic Tories, said he expected the threshold of 48 MPs’ letters to be passed, triggering a vote on Mrs May’s future. But he denied mounting a coup and said he was not putting himself forward as her successor.

He refused to name his preferred successor, but he identified Mr Raab, Ms McVey, Boris Johnson, David Davis and Penny Mordaunt as potential candidates.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey sensationally walked out of the Government the morning after Cabinet agreed a draft EU withdrawal agreement in a stormy five-hour meeting.

Two more junior ministers – Suella Braverman at the Brexit Department and Shailesh Vara at Northern Ireland – also quit along with two parliamentary aides.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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