Alliance Brexit Spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA, has responded to comments from the EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and the statement from the EU Council which express frustration at lack of progress on negotiations, adding there is no realistic alternative to the UK Government accepting the backstop, with the failure to do so leading to a catastrophic no deal Brexit.
Stephen Farry said: “The Government has essentially wasted the past six months, focusing more on trying to maintain internal unity than practical and realistic engagement.
“The deeper implications of the European Council statement are clear. The EU is stressing that agreements and progress already made have to be banked and implemented, and cannot be unpicked.
“This therefore means that the only way in which a Withdrawal Agreement and the associated Transition Deal can be secured is through the UK agreeing legal text putting into effect the backstop agreed by the UK and the EU back in the December Joint Report.
“In essence, there can no wider deal without providing insurance on the Northern Ireland – Ireland border.
“Other ideas and proposals mainly lie in the realm of the EU-UK future relationship. And while backstop may be overtaken by such a comprehensive agreement, the principles behind the backstop will inform the way forward.
“Yet, no political preparation is happening with the Conservative Government and their DUP allies in terms of these clear realities.
“Otherwise on the current trajectory, the UK is set to stumble into a no deal situation. This would be catastrophic for the UK as a whole and in particular to Northern Ireland.
“For Alliance, while the backstop is not perfect, it does nevertheless represent a foundation on which we can build. It is possible for us to be a bridge between the UK and the EU and to obtain significant comparative advantages from that. This is the essence of our ‘bridges not borders’ concept.”
“The sooner the UK Government realises and explains that all roads run through the acceptance of the backstop the better.”