Westminster ‘shenanigans’ damaging Northern Ireland

PUBLISHED: 12:31 20 July 2018 | UPDATED: 12:31 20 July 2018

Prime minister Theresa May during her speech at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast
Photo: PA / Charles McQuillan

Prime minister Theresa May during her speech at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast Photo: PA / Charles McQuillan

PA Wire/PA Images

Theresa May has been told to “take control of the situation” in Northern Ireland amid claims the country is being damaged by “shenanigans” in Westminster.

As the prime minister delivered a keynote speech in Belfast, Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann heaped pressure on May telling her to get a grip of the border issue.

After a meeting with May, he said: “Northern Ireland is being offered no certainty on Brexit.

“This is both due to not having an Assembly and Executive in place, but it is also a result of some of the shenanigans going on in Westminster where party political manoeuvres and future career prospects seem to be taking precedence over the national interest.

“Our message to the prime minister was that this part of the United Kingdom is as deserving of good governance as England, Scotland or Wales.

“We asked her to take control of the situation.

“If her government cannot put in place an initiative that will see devolution restored, then she must move to appoint ministers who can bring some stability back to Northern Ireland; the never-ending drift and uncertainty must end.”

The prime minister used her speech to tell the European Union to “evolve” its stance on Brexit, warning that previous positions are “unworkable”.

She reiterated her refusal to contemplate any backstop deal that treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK.

Speaking at the city’s Waterfront Hall, she said any such deal would go against the Good Friday Agreement, which brought peace to Northern Ireland 20 years ago after decades of conflict.

“Not simply to fall back on to previous positions which have already been proven unworkable. But to evolve their position in kind,” she said. “And, on that basis, I look forward to resuming constructive discussions.”

The Irish border issue is one of the most disputed parts of the Brexit negotiations.

In the event of a hard no-deal Brexit, the EU wants a backstop that would effectively create a border down the Irish Sea between the island of Ireland and Great Britain, something May has repeatedly opposed.

The government insists that any backstop position should include the UK as a whole.

Brexiteer Commons leader Andrea Leadsom also put some pressure on May, saying the EU must be told the Chequers blueprint, which has divided the Conservative Party, is the “final offer” rather than an opening gambit.

However she also admitted quitting without an agreement would not be an “optimal solution”.

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, meanwhile, insisted the deal is “absolutely alive” despite the government being forced to make concessions to Brexiteers.

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