PM Rejects Plan To Keep NI In Customs Union

Prime Minister Theresa May has rejected the European Union's (EU) plan to keep Northern Ireland in the customs union.

Speaking in the House of Commons she said that "no UK prime minister could ever agree" to the EU's draft legal agreement.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the "backstop" option is not intended to "provoke" the UK.

SDLP Brexit Spokesperson Claire Hanna said it was time for "hard choices".

She said: "The EU was right to publish his draft withdrawal agreement and it was right to flesh out one of the options agreed with the UK. The SDLP welcomes the EU's cast iron commitment to protecting the Good Friday Agreement and preventing a border in Ireland.

"Despite some utterances on the airwaves from some, there is nothing surprising in this draft withdrawal agreement today – this is essentially what was agreed by the UK and the EU in December.

"While I know many will feel the need to go kicking and screaming over the contents of this document, but to those Brexiteers, I say it's time they faced up to reality. It's time for calm heads and for hard choices.

"The UK Government and the Brexiteers have a choice, they either go for alignment with the Customs Union and the Single Market to protect these islands – or they support the EU on the common regulatory area. It is just fantastical to pretend that there’s some other mystery option – there isn't."

Ulster Unionist leader, Robin Swann MLA, has unequivocally stated that the European Commission's Draft Withdrawal Agreement is a complete non-starter for Unionists.
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Ulster Unionist Party Leader, Robin Swann MLA, said: "The European Commission's Draft Withdrawal Agreement, claiming that "the territory of Northern Ireland, excluding the territorial waters of the United Kingdom (the "territory of Northern Ireland"),shall be considered to be part of the customs territory of the Union", is nothing short of a move by the EU to annex Northern Ireland. It is a complete non-starter for Unionists. No British Government could accept this. It demonstrates complete and utter contempt for Northern Ireland's constitutional position and also for the Belfast Agreement.

"What's the next step for the 'joint committee' – demanding that Northern Ireland join the Euro?

"The EU and the Irish Government are playing a very dangerous game over Northern Ireland. It is absolutely clear that Leo Varadkar, supported by Michel Barnier, Guy Verhofstadt and other unelected officials in the EU are seeking to exploit Brexit in pursuit of Irish unity. Those who voted to stay in the EU, didn't vote to leave the UK and those who voted to leave the EU didn't vote to leave the UK either.

"Depending on what day of the week it is, the Irish Government and EU spokespeople, claim that they want to defend the Belfast Agreement, yet on another day they quite happily seek to undermine one of its core principles upon which relative peace was brought to Northern Ireland – the principle of consent. Their claims of defending the Belfast Agreement are shown to be nothing more than hollow words. They demonstrate no respect for the Belfast Agreement, and no respect for unionists. Just like Sinn Fein, they cherry pick what they want and ignore the uncomfortable reality of the rest because it doesn't suit their agenda."


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