Plans for Irish border in event of no-deal Brexit to be published
Plans for the Irish border in the event of a no-deal Brexit are set to be published.
Speaking after her Withdrawal Deal was defeated in a House of Commons vote, Theresa May said her Government will publish its plans for a no-deal Brexit on Wednesday.
The Prime Minister said these will include its approach to tariffs and the Northern Ireland border among other matters, if the United Kingdom leave the European Union without a deal on March 29.
Later on Wednesday, the House of Commons will vote over whether MPs are willing for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union without a deal on March 29.
Democratic Unionist leader Nigel Dodds said the no-deal option should remain.
“Once you take that threat off you are bound to be offered terms which are less advantageous in the sure and certain knowledge that the other side have that you’re not going to walk away,” Mr Dodds told Sky News.
“So, it’s totally self-defeating, it’s utterly counter-productive.”
Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald hit out at the defeat of the Withdrawal Deal, claiming it shows an “absolute disregard for the people of Ireland”.
“We are 17 days away from Brexit and the uncertainty and confusion continues,” she said.
“A crash out Brexit would be unthinkable for the peace process, jobs, trade and to the loss of people’s rights and quality of life, particularly in border communities.
“There is now a need to intensify planning for a no-deal crash with an imperative to ensure no return to a hard border, protections of our agreements and safeguarding the rights of citizens.”
Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney expressed disappointment at the outcome of the vote, but urged the need to be “patient and calm to allow this process in Westminster to take its course”.
Veteran European Parliamentarian Jim Nicholson (UUP) claimed the defeat should come as no surprise as there were “no meaningful changes” to the deal.
“We want a deal but we want a good deal – a deal that will not compromise the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom,” he said.
“It is in the best interests of the EU and UK to use their best efforts to work towards a workable deal, in order to avoid a no deal Brexit.
“Calm heads are needed now and a short technical extension should be seriously considered.”
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood expressed disappointment at the vote, but said Westminster will “have to accept the backstop at some point”.
“Sooner or later, the British Parliament is going to have to support a backstop for Northern Ireland or else support no Brexit at all – there is no happy medium between these two eventualities,” he said.
“The bottom line is that the backstop, aside from scrapping Brexit entirely, is our only insurance policy against a hard border.
“Until MPs accept this reality, Article 50 should be extended to avoid us crashing out of the EU without a deal.”
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has called for a second referendum.
“The clearest, most coherent and most democratic route through this impasse lies with a People’s Vote, including both the Prime Minister’s deal and the Remain option,” she said.
“This needs to be tested in Parliament as a matter of urgency.”
Business groups in Northern Ireland have expressed frustration at the lack of agreement over a Brexit deal.
Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: “We have no indication of customs, tariffs, documentation or checks that will be in effect on day one and we are no clearer as to the status of the border.
“Politicians of all shades must put people before politics and economics before ideology to find an agreement that can pass a vote. We need a deal.”
Roger Pollen, from the Federation of Small Businesses in Northern Ireland, said the defeat has “further heightened uncertainty”.
“For small businesses, they just want to know what economic environment they will face after March 29,” he said.
“A cliff-edge Brexit is in no-one’s interest so despite tonight’s setback an agreement must be reached to avoid it.”
Glyn Roberts, of Retail NI, added: “Crashing out of the EU without a deal would be disastrous for our retail sector, causing delays in the supply chain, food shortages and potential higher prices for consumers.
“Every element of the Northern Ireland business community, trade unions and voluntary sector is speaking with one very clear voice on Brexit – we need a deal.”