10/01/2019

Brexit: NI Remain Parties Accuse UK Govt Of DUP Appeasement

The UK Government has been accused of pandering to Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionists after it released a paper of assurances to the region, to be used in the event of a Brexit backstop.

If the Conservative's publication of commitments was an attempt to placate the DUP, it appears to have failed, according to Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds' comments that the information was nothing but "cosmetic" and "meaningless".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood hit out at Prime Minister Theresa May's government for its olive branch in the form of a consultation process for Northern Ireland, branding it an "empty veto being handed to an empty chamber, no doubt to appease the DUP".

The Foyle MLA added that it is humiliating to witness the British Government "continuously bend over backwards" for a party who are out of step with public opinion in the region.

"The prolonged stalemate at Stormont is as much attributable to the obscure relationship between the British Government and the DUP as it is anything else. The British Government would do well to remember that the DUP, despite making up 90% of Northern Ireland's representation at Westminster, only hold 1/3 of the vote and a viewpoint on Brexit that is at odds with the majority of people in Northern Ireland.

"Their relationship with the DUP, coupled by their inaction over the past two years, has discredited the British Government's role as a fair and reliable co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. Because of this, they have failed all sections of the electorate here.

"It is now time they take action to see the political institutions here restored; anything less will not be acceptable to people here who in 1998 put their trust in them to be honest brokers of our peace and power-sharing arrangements."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's President Mary Lou McDonald also accused the Conservatives of pandering to the DUP, while speaking from Brussels where she met with Brexit negotiators, including Michel Barnier.
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"The EU has made it abundantly clear there can be no undermining of the Withdrawal Agreement and its Backstop," Mrs McDonald said.

"The DUP continues to play a reckless game in its pursuit of a Brexit at the cost of our institutions, agreements and economy. The British government continues to attempt and placate DUP, which is massively out of step with the majority opinion in the North."

The Sinn Fein leader continued that Mrs May's deal, including the backstop, are the "least worst options in the disaster that is Brexit".

"These cannot, and will not, be rewritten, renegotiated or vetoed by Westminster or the Assembly."

Alliance Brexit spokesperson Stephen Farry MLA described the contents of the Government's paper as a mere "spin" with no bearing on the treaty obligations of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The party's Deputy Leader said: "Alliance has made clear across the Brexit negotiations the Assembly should not have a veto over the introduction of the backstop. This is a matter for the UK Government and the EU.

"In the circumstance the backstop within the Withdrawal Agreement was triggered...there would be a requirement for action to ensure Northern Ireland remains in compliance in order to maintain integrity of the backstop including avoiding a hard border, maintaining north-south co-operation and protecting rights. If this does not happen, the backstop would be undermined and the protections it offers diluted.

"The Government's proposals seem to add different layers of consultation. They primarily amount to spin but could lead to further brinkmanship, bureaucracy, delay and more spin. Anything that gave a substantive veto to the Northern Ireland Assembly would constitute a unilateral breach of the Withdrawal Agreement."

The Conservative Government currently relies on the support of the Democratic Unionists under the Confidence and Supply agreement, however the party has dismissed the Prime Minister's offer of an effective veto on any border backstop, which has emerged as the key sticking point.

Nigel Dodds rejected the paper's assurance of "a strong role for the Northern Ireland Assembly", claiming that it does not deliver on what was promised to the region.



(JG/CM)

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