Sunday 22 September 2019

'They became our best friends in the EU.... now the UK has put Ireland in the most catastrophic situation' - MP

  • Conservative MP makes an impassioned speech in the House of Commons about how Ireland is being put in the 'most catastrophic situation'
  • Tánaiste Simon Coveney tweeted a response to the statement, thanking Mr Burt for his contribution
  • Earlier, legislation designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit on October 31 cleared its first Commons hurdle after MPs gave it a second reading by 329 votes to 300, majority 29
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A CONSERVATIVE MP has made an impassioned speech in the House of Commons about how Ireland is being put in the "most catastrophic situation".

Alistair Burt, who was among the 21 MPs to defy Boris Johnson by voting to block no deal, said some colleagues have treated this country "as some sort of irrelevance".

Speaking tonight he said Ireland was portrayed as "a place where they have made up the border issue to try prevent us leaving the EU".

"With our history in relation to Ireland, everything that happened there, they became our best friends in the European Union.

Vote: Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to hold an election. Photo: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/PA Wire
Vote: Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to hold an election. Photo: Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament/PA Wire

"Our choice to leave, our Brexit, has put them in the most catastrophic situation of any country.

"And we now expect them to accept another English demand that they should do something. Have we no understanding of what that relationship means?" the representative for North East Bedfordshire said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons, London after MPs voted in favour of allowing a cross-party alliance to take control of the Commons agenda on Wednesday in a bid to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31. PA Wire
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons, London after MPs voted in favour of allowing a cross-party alliance to take control of the Commons agenda on Wednesday in a bid to block a no-deal Brexit on October 31. PA Wire

Tánaiste Simon Coveney tweeted a response to the statement, thanking Mr Burt for his contribution.

"I can assure you Ireland will work with UK and EU to find a deal that works for everyone; but it must be on basis of recognising and solving the complex and very real problems that Brexit causes for island of Ireland, as the WA [Withdrawal Agreement] does," Mr Coveney said.

It came just hours after Mr Burt announced he will not be standing in the next election. He was stripped of the Tory whip after voting to allow the Opposition seize power from Boris Johnson on Tuesday’s night.

Explaining his decision not to stand again in a letter to party members, Mr Burt said: "It has become clear that I have a fundamental and unresolvable disagreement with our party leadership on the manner in which we leave the EU, and the consequences going forward of doing so.

Former Conservative MP Phillip Lee (C) sitting next to Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Former Conservative MP Phillip Lee (C) sitting next to Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

"This is very likely to be at the root of the next election, and I believe it is unfair of me to present you with a conflict of interest between my views and those of the party at an election, even if current circumstances do not result in my having the whip in Parliament removed."

Mr Burt has been an MP since 1983.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking in the House of Commons. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Earlier, legislation designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit on October 31 cleared its first Commons hurdle after MPs gave it a second reading by 329 votes to 300, majority 29.

Introducing the EU Withdrawal (No. 6) Bill, which seeks to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal in October earlier, Labour MP Hilary Benn said: "I think wherever we stand on this issue, we know there is very little time left and, following the decision on prorogation, there is even less time than would have been available previously."

Voices heard: Protesters taking part in the ‘Let Us Vote’ day of action in London. Photo: Rick Findler/PA Wire
Voices heard: Protesters taking part in the ‘Let Us Vote’ day of action in London. Photo: Rick Findler/PA Wire

Mr Benn noted strong feelings on both sides in the Chamber, and appealed to MPs to "treat each other with respect" during the debate.

He added: "The purpose of the Bill is very simple. It is to ensure that the United Kingdom does not leave the European Union on October 31 without an agreement.

He said the Bill has "wide cross-party support", including from former senior Cabinet members.

Mr Benn added: "You could describe it as a somewhat unlikely alliance, but what unites us is a conviction that there is no mandate for no-deal, and that the consequences for the economy and for our country would be highly damaging."

Mr Benn said: "The Prime Minister's made it absolutely clear that he is prepared to leave on 31st October without a deal, and those of us who I hope will support the Bill today do not wish that to happen."

He added: "We cannot continue to delay taking a decision... the Bill is deliberately open as to the purpose of the extension so it provides a framework for reporting and debate and it is supported as I've just pointed out by (MPs) who have already voted for a deal and would vote for one again.

READ MORE: Brexit A to Z - Key terms related to Britain's exit from the EU explained

"And I would just say it's very important that we focus on the principal purpose which is to prevent a no-deal Brexit and to keep the coalition that shares that view together."

He went on: "We must in my opinion secure that extension to Article 50 otherwise there is a risk that the election would result in us leaving without a deal, which as it may turn out at 7 o'clock tonight is not what the House of Commons wants and we should respect that."

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