Northern Irish Kingmakers Tell PM May: Don't Betray the UK

Clay Curtis
November 10, 2018

"The EU.want to maintain a Northern Ireland only 'backstop to the backstop, ' in case the future negotiations are unsuccessful", May wrote in the letter.

Mr Varadkar's comments came after a leaked letter from Theresa May to the Democratic Unionist Party suggested a border down the Irish Sea could be included in the withdrawal agreement.

"The PM's letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious union & for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole UK", DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted.

Mrs May's letter claimed the EU is demanding a "backstop to the backstop", which would keep Northern Ireland tied to the customs union to prevent a hard border with the Irish Republic should the United Kingdom as a whole pull out of the initial backstop without a deal.

"The PM knows the consequences, she now needs to reconsider", DUP lawmaker Sammy Wilson said.

Asked about Mrs May's letter, he said both the prime minister and the DUP are "very much able to speak for themselves".

They said Ms. May had earlier promised them that it never would.

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Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said the British government needed to honour its commitments to avoid a hard border rather than promises made to the DUP.

Less than five months before Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, negotiators are still haggling over a backup plan for the land border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and European Union member Ireland should they fail to clinch a deal. "For us it is a violation of the promise that was given that will be done, that we were cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom".

He said the most important objective is to give everyone in Ireland, North and South "the assurance that a hard border will not develop... no matter what else may happen in the years ahead".

"It can not be negotiated downwards".

The First Minister was speaking following a meeting of the British-Irish Council on the Isle of Man, which was also attended by Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones and Ireland's Leo Varadkar.

Downing Street has played down suggestions that a Brexit deal is imminent, after European Council president Donald Tusk appeared to indicate a breakthrough could come within the next week. She said: "I will make no bones about the fact that the Brexit experience has exposed real weaknesses within the devolution settlement that will require them to be worked through and resolved along the way".

The UK government has so far proposed a backstop - with an expected end date of 2021 - which would effectively keep the whole of the UK in the EU customs union for a limited period after Brexit.

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