PM Pleads For Brexit Support Following EU Backstop Assurances

Prime Minister Theresa May has urged MP's to back her Brexit deal after securing assurances from the EU that the Irish backstop would be temporary, in a move dismissed by the Democratic Unionists as "nothing new".

Mrs May issued her plea after officials in Brussels published a letter confirming the EU would not want the backstop to remain in place permanently after Brexit.

Such a provision would see Northern Ireland remain in the customs union as part of a fallback plan to avoid a chaotic hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

The Prime Minister welcomed the assurances and said they had "legal force", but the DUP's Nigel Dodds said there are still no legally binding guarantees, despite the letter of "supposed reassurances".

It comes one day ahead of the Parliamentary vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday 15 January.

Mrs May warned of "paralysis in Parliament" if it is voted down, and also said it would risk a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit occurring at all.

"The only ways to guarantee we do not leave without a deal are to abandon Brexit, betraying the vote of the British people, or to leave with a deal," she said.

In response, Mr Dodds said the Prime Minister should request and deliver changes to the Withdrawal Agreement, instead of "meaningless letters" from EU representatives such as Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker.
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The north Belfast MP added that the letter "bolsters" the party's concerns by confirming that everything the Attorney General said in his legal advice regarding the backstop still stands, that there has been no change to the withdrawal agreement and that Northern Ireland would be subject to EU laws with no representation in Brussels.

Regarding Mrs May's statement about "changes to everyday life in Northern Ireland that would put the future of our Union at risk" Mr Dodds said: "The Prime Minister must explain this comment. What exactly would the Government be changing?

"If this is nothing more than scaremongering, then the Prime Minister should cease from such foolish talk. Indeed, the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said that the Republic of Ireland is not making preparations for a hard border even in the event of no deal being agreed."

The Conservative party leader continued that she had listened to the concerns of MP's, including those of the DUP, who currently prop up the government, but highlighted that the letter from the EU contains "valuable new clarifications and assurances to put before the House of Commons, including on getting our future relationship in place rapidly so the backstop should never need to be used".

She added: "We now have a commitment from the EU that work on our new relationship can begin as soon as possible after the signing of the Withdrawal Agreement in advance of March 29, and we have an explicit commitment that this new relationship does not need to replicate the backstop in any respect whatsoever."

She also said that the EU had agreed to a "fast track process" to sign a new trade deal with the UK after Brexit, and that this made it more likely the backstop will never have to be used.

A restored Stormont would also have a say on any new EU rules that are added to the backstop.


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