Brexit: PM's Pledge To Avoid A Hard Border

Prime Minister Theresa May has visited Belfast to offer assurances over her Brexit strategy and reiterate her "unshakeable" commitment to avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

"The UK Government will not let that happen. I will not let that happen," the Conservative leader told an audience in the city on the afternoon of Tuesday 05 February.

Mrs May continued in her speech that she will seek changes to the backstop, off the back of a Parliament vote, but restated that she is not pursuing its total removal from the Withdrawal Agreement.

The backstop is an insurance policy, agreed by the EU, that protects against a hard border in any Brexit reality, such as a no-deal crash out on 29 March.

The DUP believe the backstop could threaten the integrity of the union as it holds the potential of checks on goods coming into NI from Great Britain and it would also apply unless and until the EU and UK jointly decided to end it.

Despite the opposition, the Republic of Ireland and EU have said there can be no renegotiation of the Brexit deal, or the backstop.

Mrs May said she also wanted to strengthen the UK's "unique" relationship with the Irish government and emphasised the UK Government's readiness to support the "tantalising possibility" of a joint UK-Irish bid for the football World Cup in 2030.
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She pledged to work with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to "continue to maintain, and indeed enhance, the strongest possible bilateral partnership between the UK and Ireland" after Brexit.

The Prime Minister is set to meet with Northern Ireland political representatives today, Wednesday 06 February, in a bid to help restore the power sharing institutions which have been suspended for over two years.

Meanwhile, the Ulster Unionists have called on Mrs May to "deliver on her promise" and remove the backstop in order to protect the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.

Robin Swann MLA said he welcomed the visit to Belfast, but it presented "nothing new" so-far.

"There can be no change to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland without the express consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland. It is a crucial part of the Belfast Agreement and the Backstop quite clearly breaches it," the MLA for north Antrim commented.

"I welcome the fact that even the DUP now recognise that the Belfast Agreement secures Northern Ireland's position within the United Kingdom. Anyone who understands the Belfast Agreement knows full well that the Backstop is incompatible with it and the Government needs to make this point loud and clear. Once that basic fact is recognised and accepted by Dublin and Brussels, then perhaps we can make real progress.

"The Withdrawal Agreement and the Backstop must be amended to respect the Belfast Agreement and to both recognise and defend the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom."


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