Brexit: PM Urged To Secure Changes To NI Backstop

Prime Minister Theresa May is being urged to secure changes from the EU to the Northern Ireland backstop as part of her Brexit deal.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said winning a "freedom clause" would be "unadulterated good Brexit news".

The backstop is an "insurance policy" included in the withdrawal deal which is intended to ensure that no matter what happens, there will be no return to a visible border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after the UK leaves the EU.

But the current wording of the plan has proved unpopular with many Conservative MP's, who believed it could tie the region to EU rules indefinitely.

The House of Commons will vote on a series of amendments to Mrs May's plan on Tuesday 29 January, which have the potential of changing the future direction of the withdrawal.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, however, has said that any changes to the backstop would not be acceptable.
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Democractic Unionist MP Nigel Dodds called for a "constructive spirit" from Ireland and the remaining 27 EU states, and welcomed the comments from chief Brexit negotiator in Brussels, Michel Barnier, that the body is committed to finding an operational way of carrying out checks without creating a border.

"I am encouraged by Michel Barnier's new and more realistic approach. It is a long way from the dramatic language EU spokespeople were using this time last year," said Mr Dodds, whose party currently supports the Conservative majority in Parliament.

"The trap of the backstop is the problem. There are ways forward which do not require this backstop and we need to see a willingness to explore such options.

"We need to see more of this kind of spirit in the negotiations. It is only when the EU comes to the table with a constructive mind-set that there will be real progress towards a mutually beneficial deal. 

"We want to reach a consensus which respects the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom and which also works for our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland.

"We continue to work with our Government in an effort to reach a better deal which can command support in the House of Commons but also importantly in Brussels too."


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