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Extended transition changes nothing, says DUP as Prime Minister quizzed on 'permanent backstop' option

By Michael Sheils McNamee

The extension of the transition period in which the UK leaves the EU "does nothing significant on the key issue of the unacceptable EU backstop proposals," the DUP's deputy leader Nigel Dodds has said.

The North Belfast MP made the comments in a statement released shortly after a speech in Brussels by Theresa May, following two days of crunch talks with EU leaders.

Speaking during a press conference, the Prime Minister was quizzed on reports she had made a commitment to the Republic's Europe Minister Helen McEntee that any backstop would be permanent.

The Prime Minister did not address the matter and instead moved to clarify what the backstop was and what it was intended to do.

"It’s if there is a gap between the end of the implementation period, which I said is December 2020. And the introduction of the future relationship. If there is a period of months. And I think we would only be talking about a matter of months when there is that gap," she said.

Mrs May added the measure was in place to ensure "there is no return to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland" during a transition period, and that "nobody wants the backstop to actually be used".

Nigel Dodds said any extended transition would mean the United Kingdom continues to "pay but have no say" in Brussels, and that "such an extension would cost United Kingdom billions of pounds, yet our fundamental problem with the EU proposal remains".

"The DUP wants a Brexit deal that works for our nearest neighbours in the European Union but which respects the constitutional and economic integrity of the precious Union. The backstop as proposed by the EU would undermine the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom," he said.

"I am glad that it is not just unionists in Northern Ireland who recognise the dangers of the EU proposals on the backstop to the union. Such a backstop is unacceptable to many others from right across the United Kingdom."

Sinn Fein's Irish presidential candidate and MEP Liadh Ni Riada said the Brexit negotiations were reaching their "defining moments" and said "the latest British proposal is for a time limited backstop which, in reality, means no backstop".

“We must listen to the majority of the people in the north who do not want a hard border and seek to remain within the customs union and single market," she said.

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