Sinn Féin 'won't take up seats to help push through Brexit deal'
There is "no scenario in which Sinn Féin rides in to the rescue" of Brexit by having their MPs vote in Westminster, Mary Lou McDonald has said.
Despite the uphill battle facing UK Prime Minister Theresa May to get the so-called 'Irish backstop' approved by the House of Commons, Sinn Féin will not take its seven seats.
Analysts suggest the final vote on a Brexit deal could go down to the wire, creating a situation where seven votes could be enough to swing the result.
Mrs May's Conservative Party has just 315 out of the 650 seats but cannot rely on hardline Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and David Davis.
The DUP, which props up her minority government, may also go against the prime minister if Northern Ireland is treated differently to the rest of the UK in the backstop agreement.
However, Ms McDonald said: "Brexit can't be stopped in our view. There is no scenario in which Sinn Féin rides in to the rescue and stops all of this from happening.
"This, folks, is happening. Our efforts have to be very precisely focused on getting the right deal and the right protections for Ireland."
She argued that Sinn Féin MPs were elected on the basis that they would not take up their seats in London. Despite not sitting in parliament, they do collect allowances and expenses.
Ms McDonald said it was her party's job to "ensure that this island, this country, does not become the collateral damage".
She said EU negotiator Michel Barnier has "our back" and it is up to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's Government to secure the best deal for Ireland.
"Brexit will not be decided in Westminster. Brexit will be decided around that negotiating table.
"If we were, which we're not, minded to enter Westminster just watch the law of unintended consequences. Be very sure it would have a political effect in terms of remain Tories."