Alliance Brexit Spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA has said Parliament has undermined the interests of Northern Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement by passing amendments backed by hard Brexiteers.
The amendment, backed by the Conservative European Research Group and the DUP, gives a legal guarantee there will be no post-Brexit customs border in the Irish Sea. Dr Farry said it meant the Prime Minister “has dug a deeper hole” in the Brexit process.
“The Government has managed to undermine its own White Paper within less than a week. It was already flawed but now seems doomed. It is further disappointing Parliament sought to rule out any custom checks down the Irish Sea, without the opposition even forcing a division.
“While that approach seems superficially sensible, it betrays a lack of understanding of the Brexit negotiations, and the interests of protecting the Good Friday Agreement and avoiding a devastating hard border on the island of Ireland.
“Alliance does not want to see any new borders, barriers or friction anywhere in these islands. The need for a backstop only arises from the decision to leave the EU and as a safety net. It is not a constitutional issue and is consistent with devolution and existing precedents. The backstop does not cut off Northern Ireland from the Great Britain market, rather allowing us to more easily be part of both the UK and EU economies.
“The UK and EU has already signed up to the backstop in the December Joint Report. The backstop is only available for Northern Ireland. It is not on offer UK-wide. Finalising legal text is now the key issue for the Withdrawal Agreement and Transition deal. All other issues in the White Paper relate to the UK-EU future relationship.
“So this amendment therefore makes it difficult to see how any Withdrawal Agreement can be finalised and along with it any transition deal. Any no deal outcome would be catastrophic. But unless the UK Government can perform a U-turn, this is where we are heading. Time is running out.”