DUP ‘hellbent’ on ‘blinkered Brexit’ - O’Neill

Michelle O'Neill with Mary Lou McDonald and Derry Councillor Sandra Duffy
Michelle O'Neill with Mary Lou McDonald and Derry Councillor Sandra Duffy

Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said that the DUP is “hell bent” on pursuing a reckless and blinkered Brexit strategy that is “driving us all towards a no deal catastrophe”.

The Sinn Fein Vice President was commenting after the DUP confirmed it would not support the Brexit withdrawal agreement, despite the latest assurances from the EU.

The DUP last night accused the European Union of intransigence and said they will only support the “right deal which respects the referendum result and Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom”.

The DUP’s 10 Members of Parliament were among the majority of MPs who voted down Theresa May’s Brexit deal in the House of Commons last night.

Michelle O’Neill however said that the EU has shown considerable patience and a willingness to facilitate a Brexit agreement that enables Britain to leave the EU without creating a hard border in Ireland, or undermining the Good Friday Agreement.

“The way to achieve that is through the Withdrawal Agreement and the ‘backstop’ contained within it. There can be no deviation or diminution from that position,” she said.

“The business community, the farming community, the Civil Service, educationalists and trade unionists have all warned in recent weeks about the dire consequences of a No Deal crash on our economy.

“The DUP continues to ignore these warnings, just as they ignore the fact that the majority of people in the north voted against Brexit in the first place.

“This blinkered strategy is reckless in the extreme. It is driving us all towards a no-deal crash that would be catastrophic.

“At this critical time the DUP have a choice to make. It is time to put people’s jobs, livelihoods and peace first before selfish party political interests.”

Setting out its reasons for going against the deal thrashed out by its governing partners, the Conservative Party, the DUP in a statement said: “The Prime Minister set out a clear objective for legally binding change which would command a majority in the House of Commons in line with the Brady amendment.

“We recognise that the Prime Minister has made limited progress in her discussions with the European Union. However in our view sufficient progress has not been achieved at this time.

“Having carefully considered the published material as well as measuring what has been achieved against our own fundamental tests, namely the impact of the backstop on the constitutional and economic integrity of the Union of the United Kingdom, it is clear that the risks remain that the UK would be unable to lawfully exit the backstop were it to be activated.

“The Attorney General’s legal advice is clear in his last paragraph ‘the legal risk remains unchanged that if through no such demonstrable failure of either party, but simply because of intractable differences, that situation does arise, the United Kingdom would have, at least while the fundamental circumstances remained the same, no internationally lawful means of exiting the protocol’s arrangements, save by agreement’.

“We want to see a deal which works for every part of the United Kingdom. We will support the right deal which respects the referendum result and Northern Ireland’s place as an integral part of the United Kingdom.

“The European Union has been intransigent. It is possible to reach a sensible deal which works for the United Kingdom and the European Union but it will require all sides to be reasonable and in deal making mode.”