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PM suffers huge Brexit defeat: How Northern Ireland parties reacted

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Parliament acted in the best interests of the UK by rejecting Theresa May's withdrawal agreement, the DUP leader Arlene Foster said.

She was responding after 432 MPs voted down the deal with 202 in favour. A huge majority of 230.

Pre-empting Jeremy Corbyn's subsequent motion of no confidence in the Government, the Prime Minister immediately offered to begin cross-party talks on gaining Commons support on an alternative should she survive the challenge.

"The House of Commons has sent an unmistakable message to the Prime Minister and the European Union that this deal is rejected," Arlene Foster added.

"Mrs May will now be able to demonstrate to the Brussels’ negotiators that changes are required if any deal is to command the support of Parliament."

The DUP has said it will support the Government in the no confidence motion in the Commons saying it wants a change in policy not administration.

"We will work with the Government constructively to achieve a better deal.  That is our focus.  Whilst some may wish to use this defeat to boost their political ambitions, we will give the Government the space to set out a plan to secure a better deal," continued Foster.

"Reassurances whether in the form of letters or warm words, will not be enough.  The Prime Minister must now go back to the European Union and seek fundamental change to the Withdrawal Agreement.

"We want an orderly exit from the European Union with a sensible deal which works for Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Ireland must be protected in Brexit

Sinn Fein called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to ensure there was no dilution of the backstop.

“Ireland’s people, Ireland’s economy and Ireland’s peace process all need to be protected as we go forward now," said party president Mary Lou McDonald.

“The Taoiseach and the Tanaiste and our partners at a European level need to stand firm and not move away from or attempt to dilute the backstop.

“We need to say clearly to the British that if they wish to Brexit then that’s a matter for themselves but any Brexit agreement needs to recognise, understand and protect the people, the economy and the peace process on this island.”

Naive to say better deal available

The SDLP said the economy of Northern Ireland must be protected.

"There is no such thing as a good Brexit but if we are forced to leave the EU then Northern Ireland must to be protected through a backstop," said leader Colum Eastwood.

"The naive belief in Westminster that a better deal can be negotiated with Brussels is merely postponing the inevitable. That fact remains - there is no way to avoid a hard border in Ireland if Northern Ireland leaves the customs union and single market. That is why a backstop is essential. The SDLP have said this from day one.

"Northern Ireland's economy and stability can't be sacrificed because politicians in London have failed to recognise the obvious."

Delay Brexit and get better deal

The UUP said the Government should delay Brexit and extend Article 50 in order to renegotiate a better deal.

"The debate has clearly shown that there is no desire amongst the majority of MPs for a no deal Brexit," said party leader Robin Swann.

“The EU's claims that they want to defend the Belfast Agreement must now be backed up by actions that reflect their responsibility. The backstop needs dealt with and they know it. If they continue with their present intransigence, everyone will end up in a place where no-one wants to go.

“We want the right deal for the country, a sensible deal and a deal which creates a positive trading relationship with the EU in the future which doesn`t undermine the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom or the principle of consent which is at the heart of the Belfast Agreement.”

Time for the people to decide

Alliance's said given the "unrealistic expectations" involved, the people should be given the chance to have their say again.

“It is now clear the only coherent way forward is to have a People’s Vote," said Naomi Long.

"Democracy is an active process, and given what we now know and the ongoing deadlock, the people of UK must have the right to have their say.”

The Green Party also called for a People's Vote while the TUV said the Prime Minister should tell the EU to bin the backstop or it would be no deal.

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