Tuesday 20 August 2019

'Ireland's peace process needs to be protected' - Varadkar urged to 'stand firm' over backstop

British Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Brussels Picture: Sky News/AP
British Prime Minister Theresa May shakes hands with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Brussels Picture: Sky News/AP

Rebecca Black

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been urged to "stand firm" over the backstop after British MPs voted down the proposed withdrawal deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plans were rejected by 432 votes to 202 by the House of Commons on Tuesday night.

Amid the resulting uncertainty over how the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald pressed the Taoiseach to stand firm on the backstop.

"Ireland's people, Ireland's economy and Ireland's peace process all need to be protected as we go forward now," she said.

"The Taoiseach and the Tanaiste and our partners at a European level need to stand firm and not move away from or attempt to dilute the backstop.

"We need to say clearly to the British that if they wish to Brexit then that's a matter for themselves but any Brexit agreement needs to recognise, understand and protect the people, the economy and the peace process on this island."

Speaking earlier on Tuesday, Mr Varadkar said he hoped MPs in the Hose of Commons would vote in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement, but emphasised "it is a matter for them".

He added: "I don't think it would be in Ireland's interest for me to be interfering in their internal politics."

Meanwhile, the DUP said welcomed the result of tonight's vote, saying it is "in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom."

DUP Leader Arlene Foster backed the decision to reject the Withdrawal Agreement.

She said: "The House of Commons has sent an unmistakable message to the Prime Minister and the European Union that this deal is rejected.

"Mrs May will now be able to demonstrate to the Brussels’ negotiators that changes are required if any deal is to command the support of Parliament.

"We will work with the Government constructively to achieve a better deal.  That is our focus.  Whilst some may wish to use this defeat to boost their political ambitions, we will give the Government the space to set out a plan to secure a better deal.

"Reassurances whether in the form of letters or warm words, will not be enough.  The Prime Minister must now go back to the European Union and seek fundamental change to the Withdrawal Agreement.

"We want an orderly exit from the European Union with a sensible deal which works for Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom."

PA Media

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