Brexit: Theresa May warns no-deal Brexit could break up UK

If MPs vote down the Brexit withdrawal deal in Parliament it could lead to the break-up of the UK

 

She said a no-deal Brexit would "strengthen the hand" of those  calling for an Irish border poll and a second referendum on Scottish  independence.

An exchange of letters between the UK and EU offers more reassurances on the Irish border backstop, she said.

MPs are due to vote on the withdrawal agreement on Tuesday night.

'Sacrificial lamb'

But  the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party), which opposes the backstop, said  the letter offers nothing legally binding, and the party will still vote  against Mrs May's plan.

As the deal was debated in the House of Commons on Monday night,  DUP MP David Simpson said his constituents feel like "the sacrificial  lamb to placate the Irish Republic and the EU".

The Upper Bann MP said that as a "proud unionist", he cannot support the withdrawal agreement.

"The way the EU has treated the fifth largest economy in the world is an insult," Mr Simpson told the Commons.


 In the House of Lords, the prime minister's Brexit plan suffered its  first official parliamentary defeat on Monday night, as peers registered  their opposition. 


 

While the Lords motion has no real power, peers voted to reject the deal by 321 votes to 152.

Earlier  on Monday, the prime minister told MPs a no-deal Brexit would lead to  "changes to everyday life in Northern Ireland that would put the future  of the union at risk".

Mrs May has always insisted that her plan  is the best deal to protect the union as a whole, but the DUP and  opposition parties claim it poses a threat to the integrity of the  union.

The DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds asked the prime  minister to "admit nothing has fundamentally changed" since she  postponed a vote on the deal in December.

But Mrs May said the  assurances had "legal force in international law" alongside the  withdrawal agreement and political declaration, although she recognised  "it's not what some members wanted from the EU".

Meanwhile,  Ireland's tánaiste (deputy prime minister) said his country must "hold  its nerve" this week as British MPs prepare to vote on the EU withdrawal  deal.


 

Simon Coveney warned against a "knee-jerk reaction" and said his  government has been working for months on no-deal Brexit contingency  planning.

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald said the EU backstop cannot be set aside or diluted. 

"Whatever  transpires at Westminster, it is essential that Irish interests are  protected. That the economy is protected and that the Good Friday  Agreement is protected in all its parts," she said.  

What do the letters say?

The  letter from Prime Minister Theresa May to the EU asks for clarity that  in the event the UK and EU have negotiated but not yet ratified a trade  deal, then the backstop would not be the "default" position and that all  efforts would be made to avoid it.

The backstop, a mechanism that  is included in the withdrawal agreement, is an insurance policy  designed to avoid a hard Irish border "unless and until" another  solution is found as part of the UK-EU future relationship.

The response from EU leader Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker states that the backstop is not the EU's preferred solution to avoiding a hard border.


 

The letter also said that the backstop does not undermine the Good Friday Agreement, or "annex" Northern Ireland.

It  also promised to consider alternative ways of preventing the need for  physical checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic  of Ireland.

However, EU leaders said they are "not in a position  to agree anything that changes" the legally binding withdrawal  agreement, which was approved by the other EU27 leaders last year.

What has the Irish government said?

Speaking  to Irish national broadcaster RTÉ, Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime  Minister) Simon Coveney said the government needed to "tread carefully".

"People  shouldn't feel threatened by it (the backstop), some people have  painted the backstop into something that it's not," he said.

 

"This week is going to be a really significant few days. This is a  time where Ireland has to hold its nerve. We're most impacted by Brexit  of all the EU states.

"We need to stay close to the British government and EU partners - but shouldn't respond in knee-jerked or any panicked way."

He  said the Irish government had been working for months on no-deal Brexit  contingency planning, and would circulate four detailed memos at a  cabinet meeting on Tuesday, building on a previously released document.


 

Have the letters reassured the DUP?

Not at all.

The  DUP has been saying for weeks that its 10 MPs will vote against the  deal because of their opposition to the backstop, which would see extra  checks for some goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain,  if it took effect.

The party believes any measure that could lead  to differences between one part of the UK and the rest could threaten  the integrity of the union.

 

Speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Ulster programme, before the letters had been published on Monday, the DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds dismissed them as meaningless.

"When the prime minister delayed the vote in December, she said she was going to get legally binding reassurances," he said.

"A letter certainly isn't legally binding.

"It's  another example that the EU is not prepared to do what's required, even  to take the first step if it wants to get a deal in the House of  Commons."

DUP leader Arlene Foster also renewed her assault on the backstop on Monday.

She  said it "fundamentally undermines Northern Ireland's place in the UK"  and "runs roughshod" over the principle of consent contained in the Good  Friday Agreement.

Analysis: DUP not budging on backstop

By Jayne McCormack, BBC News NI Political Reporter

This  is a last-minute letter for Theresa May to wave at her critics - but  the party most vocally against the backstop is not budging.

A DUP source told me: "Unionists are far too long in the tooth to fall for written assurances."

Without  a binding pledge from the entire EU27 that the backstop would be  temporary, the DUP's view is that this letter has no effect on its  voting intention.

It still wants to see the withdrawal agreement reopened and the backstop binned, or its terms changed.

Both these things look unlikely.

The  DUP's problem with the backstop, as set out by Nigel Dodds, is three  small - but important - words in the legally binding withdrawal  agreement: "Unless and until."

While the backstop has its  supporters - the Irish government, as well as other political parties in  NI and business and farming groups - the scale of the opposition to it  in Parliament at this late stage is likely to prove the downfall of Mrs  May's deal.

What happens on Tuesday?

It  is expected that about 100 Conservative MPs will join Labour and other  opposition parties in voting against the deal on Tuesday night.

Theresa May has urged MPs to get behind her plan and has warned that not voting for it could mean not leaving the EU becomes a possibility.

She  made a statement to MPs in Parliament on Monday afternoon and said, as a  "proud unionist", she understood concerns about the backstop - and that  once the withdrawal agreement was signed, immediate talks could begin  with the EU in order to reach a trade deal and avoid entering the  backstop.


 

The chair of Westminster's Northern Ireland Affairs Committee,  Conservative MP Andrew Murrison, said that although he voted to leave  the EU in 2016 he would back the plan.

He has tabled an amendment to the deal to create a "sunset clause", preventing the backstop extending beyond the end of 2021.

"It  is important in my opinion that we understand the backstop is not  needed to ensure the absence of a hard border in Northern Ireland," he  said.

While the DUP is likely to vote against the deal, it will  almost certainly back the prime minister if a no confidence motion is  brought against her in Parliament.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has vowed to table such a motion if the deal is defeated on Tuesday.

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Irish News

RTE News from Ireland

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https://www.rte.ie/news/

PSNI prepare for a hard Brexit

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A thousand additional police from England and Scotland are to be trained

for conflict in Ireland as part of preparations for the remilitarisation

of the border, it has emerged.

The PSNI believe the reinforcements will be required to deal with

'disorder' in the event of a no-deal Brexit, which could see Britain

chaotically fall out of the European Union at the end of March.

Internal disarray within the Conservative Party as it clings to power with the support of the unionist DUP means that a negotiated agreement on Brexit appears increasingly unlikely.

The transfer of police from English forces and Police Scotland is

expected to begin this month. It was previously announced that the PSNI has been allocated an additional special funding so that it can

construct new bases and recruit more than 300 additional staff to prepare for Brexit.

The prospect of large numbers of untrained British riot police being

deployed across the North would be the clearest sign yet that the 1998 Good Friday peace Agreement is in crisis.

Despite the success of the British Prime Minister Theresa May in

brokering a withdrawal agreement with the EU and the Dublin government, the DUP and their unionist Tory supporters have insisted on a more uncompromising deal which would ensure a hard border and help reinforce the partition of Ireland.

Negotiations with the EU have concluded, and the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has said Ireland is "now preparing for no deal with the same level of seriousness that we would" an agreed Brexit.

The DUP's has Nigel Dodds claimed the preparations for a hard border are

"nonsense propaganda". Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading Tory who has refused to vote for Theresa May's withdrawal deal in the House of Commons, and was the ringleader of a failed attempt to oust May through a vote of no confidence in December, has also dismissed the Irish border as a phantom" concern.

"If we leave without a deal the main culprit will be the obdurate Irish

government's threats about the phantom border issue," he wrote on

Twitter. However, Rees-Mogg has also warned that Irish citizens should be subject to "inspection" if they attempt to cross the border following Brexit. "There would be our ability, as we had during The Troubles, to have people inspected," he said.  "It's not a border that everyone has to go through every day."

‘North must be protected from disastrous DUP Brexit’ – O’Neill 7 January, 2019 - by Michelle O'Neil

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The DUP must not be allowed to force a disastrous ‘no-deal’ Brexit on  the people of the North, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has  said.

The Sinn Féin Vice President was commenting after DUP Deputy Leader  Nigel Dodds warned that a no-deal crash was likely if there is no change  to the Withdrawal Agreement endorsed by the British Government and the  European Union.

Michelle O’Neill commented: “Brexit is only 14 weeks away yet the DUP  are still refusing to accept the majority view of our people, business  community and wider civic society who support the Withdrawal Agreement  and the backstop as the best insurance policy to protect our economy,  the Good Friday Agreement and to prevent a hard border.

“The deal currently on the table is by no means ideal, but it is the least bad option for Ireland.

“It is a moderate solution to a problem created in England and forced  upon us against our will. By contrast, a no deal situation would be  catastrophic for our economy and society.

“It would mean us all crashing out of the EU on 29 March 2019 with no  terms of departure, and over a cliff-edge with supply shortages and  many businesses unable to trade, resulting in job losses and a serious  economic downturn.

“We will have practically no access to the EU single market; a  physical hard border or EU frontier will be put in place in Ireland; and  World Trade Organisation (WTO) trading rules will be applied.

“That cannot be allowed to happen and the DUP cannot be allowed to  risk such a destructive outcome in its game of chicken with the British  Government and the EU.

“Sinn Féin President Mary-Lou McDonald and I will be in Brussels on  Wednesday to meet EU Chief negotiator Michel Barnier when we will again  reiterate the importance of maintaining the backstop and protecting our  economy and our island from the disaster that the DUP would be willing  to force upon us all.”

Ministers discussed possibility of Irish border poll in event of no-deal Brexit

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January 9 2019 


Cabinet ministers have discussed the possibility that a no-deal Brexit will lead to a United Ireland, according to reports.  

Politics Home reports that Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley issued the warning at Tuesday's meeting of the Cabinet.

The website claims that Ms Bradley said a border poll on the  reunification of Ireland was "far more likely" if the United Kingdom  crashes out of the European Union without a withdrawal agreement.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, a referendum on Irish unity can only  be called by the Northern Ireland Secretary if there is evidence that a  majority in the province would support a United Ireland.

One Cabinet source told Politics Home: "The view was that a border  poll in Northern Ireland was all-but inevitable if there is a no-deal  Brexit because Sinn Fein would demand it straight away. The Secretary of  State would have no choice but to call one."


 Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald, speaking to reporters in  Brussels on Wednesday, said: "We believe we're in a process now in  achieving a referendum on Irish unity."

She added that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Sinn Fein will push the British Government to call a border poll.

She was speaking after a meeting with EU Brexit Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier in Belgium


 Belfast Telegraph Digital  

Sinn Fein’s refusal to take Westminster seats a tragedy, John Bruton says

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January 12 2019 


Sinn Fein’s refusal to take their seats in Westminster and voice their  concerns over Brexit is a “tragedy”, a former Irish prime minister has  said. 


 

John Bruton said the voice of Irish nationalism was missing in the  debate over the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, as he criticised the  left-wing republican party’s “extremely bad” record for not sitting in  the Commons.

Sinn Fein refuses to take its seats out of opposition to  Westminster’s jurisdiction in Northern Ireland and the oath all MPs must  make to the Queen.


 

Mr Bruton, a former Fine Gael politician who served as taoiseach from  1994 to 1997, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think the record  of Sinn Fein MPs not taking their seats in Parliament has been extremely  bad.

“Ireland was partitioned in 1920 when Sinn Fein refused to take their seats after the 1918 election.

“Sinn Fein have refused to take their seats on this occasion and the  most serious threats to the position of Northern nationalists are now  about to be realised – with no Sinn Fein, no Northern nationalist voice  to argue a different case.

“I think it’s a great shame, it’s a tragedy.”

He also said there would be a hard border between the Republic of  Ireland and Northern Ireland if there is no agreement between the UK and  the EU.


 

He also said there would be a hard border between the Republic of  Ireland and Northern Ireland if there is no agreement between the UK and  the EU.

He said: “There will be a hard border if there is no agreement –  that’s clear under EU law if you look at the paper that was produced  last month by the European Commission – it’s quite clear that there will  have to be control on the EU’s borders and one of those EU borders in  the event that Britain leaves the EU will be in Ireland.”

And he suggested those opposed to the controversial backstop  proposals to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland do not believe  there would ever be an “acceptable agreement”.

He told the programme: “One suspects that those who object to the  backstop are people who don’t really expect there ever will be an  acceptable agreement that would avoid a hard border in Ireland or  between Ireland and Britain.”


Belfast Telegraph report

Flying Parachute Regiment flags 'a hate crime', says Bloody Sunday relative

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By Donna Deeney 

January 17 2019 


Parachute Regiment flags erected in Co Londonderry ahead of the  anniversary of Bloody Sunday have been branded provocative,  disrespectful and hurtful to families of the victims. 

 

They appear every year in the village of Newbuildings in the run-up to the anniversary of the killings.

Thirteen people died after members of the Parachute Regiment opened  fire on civil rights demonstrators. A 14th person died later.

Kate Nash's brother, William, was among those killed on January 30, 1972. Her father, meanwhile, was among 28 people shot.

Ms Nash said that she considered the flying of the flags a hate crime.

 

  Parachute Regiment flags fly from lampposts in Newbuildings 

"This has become a regular feature for some people in  Newbuildings, Drumahoe and in some parts of the Waterside, but I cannot  understand why we are forced to put up with this year in and year out  because to me this is a hate crime," she said.

"While I know the vast majority of people in those communities don't  support these flags flying, the actions of the small number who do this  are hurtful, and it is awful that some people seek to glorify the  soldiers who carried out Bloody Sunday in such a public way."

Sinn Fein councillor Christopher Jackson called on unionist politicians to get the flags removed.

"Given the brutal history of the Parachute Regiment in this city, the  erection of these flags is provocative and disrespectful and clearly  designed to hurt the families who had loved ones murdered and injured on  Bloody Sunday," he said.

DUP MLA Gary Middleton said: "This is not the first time such flags  have been erected, including in response to other events around bonfires  or parades in the city. We must all work to reduce and de-escalate  tensions in our community. 

PSNI Superintendent Gordon McCalmont said: "We fully understand the  difficulties the flying of flags can cause across our community. 

"It is our experience that these issues are best resolved through  engagement and meaningful dialogue between local people and their  representatives. 

"The police service are supporters of such arrangements."


from Belfast Telegraph