Theresa May travelled to Northern Ireland to reaffirm the UK’s commitment that there would not be a hard border on the island of Ireland post-Brexit. The Prime Minister also admitted that under its current form the Withdrawal Agreement would not pass in the House of Commons. Speaking in Belfast, she said: “I’m here today to affirm my commitment, and that of the UK Government, to all of the people of Northern Ireland, of every background and tradition.”
Theresa May said she wanted to “affirm my commitment to delivering a Brexit that ensures no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, which is unshakeable”.
She said: “I know that the prospect of changing the backstop and reopening the Withdrawal Agreement creates real anxieties here in Northern Ireland and in Ireland, because it is here that the consequences of whatever is agreed will most be felt.
“I recognise too that the majority of voters in Northern Ireland voted to remain and that many will feel that once again decisions taken in Westminster are having a profound and in many cases unwanted impact in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
“So I’m determined to work towards a solution that can command broader support from across the community in Northern Ireland.
We stand by our commitment in the Joint Report that there will be no hard border – including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls.”
Although, the Prime Minister did admit that while she made the case for the Withdrawal Agreement, it would not pass the House of Commons in its current form.
“I fought hard to make the case for the deal as it stands,” she said.
“I believed it could command a majority in the House of Commons but I have had to face up to the fact that in its current form it cannot and the need for changes to the backstop is the key issue.
“While there were those in Northern Ireland who favoured it, it is also true that the backstop is not supported by the two main Unionist parties here and it also influenced MPs in England, Scotland and Wales in voting against the deal.”
We stand by our commitment in the Joint Report that there will be no hard border
MPs last week gave the Prime Minister the mandate to return to the European Union to change or replace the backstop element within the Withdrawal Agreement.
Speaking on the Today programme on Tuesday, DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “We will be reiterating our opposition to the current backstop and the fact that parliament has now backed that position means she has a clear mandate to go back to Brussels.
“Parliament’s mandate is to replace the backstop, the current backstop is toxic to those of us living in Northern Ireland. If the backstop is dealt with in the Withdrawal Agreement we will support the prime minister. I don’t want to see a no-deal scenario.”
Mrs May is expected to meet with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Thursday, the Commission’s spokesman has announced.
Margaritis Schinas also said that Mr Juncker will meet Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Brussels on Wednesday.