Sinn Fein: Backing a delay to Brexit would only cause more chaos

PUBLISHED: 10:15 04 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:18 04 March 2019

Conor Murphy MLA, Sinn Fein leader at Stormont Michelle O'Neill, Elisha McCallion MP and Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA.

Conor Murphy MLA, Sinn Fein leader at Stormont Michelle O'Neill, Elisha McCallion MP and Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Any hopes that Sinn Fein would support a delay to Brexit have been scuppered by the vice president's claims that it would cause more "chaos and Tory infighting".

Vice president Michelle O’Neill questioned the rationale behind an extension of Article 50.

Prime minister Theresa May has promised MPs a vote on delaying Brexit if parliament rejects both her proposed Withdrawal Agreement and a no-deal exit.

But ahead of a meeting of Sinn Fein’s northern membership in Belfast, O’Neill appeared to disagree with the prospect of the timetable being pushed back.

She told the Press Association: “For Theresa May to extend the deadline you have to ask for what purpose, what would it serve.

“Will we get more of the same from Westminster, will we get more chaos, will we get more Tory infighting, or will we actually see a resolution?

“There is a Withdrawal Agreement on the table, we have influenced that Withdrawal Agreement and the (Northern Ireland) protocol, and we want to see that delivered. Not because we think it is a good deal but because we think it is the least worst option.”

Westminster remains deadlocked on Brexit, with the controversial Irish border backstop the key obstacle.

The backstop mechanism to maintain a free flowing border would be triggered in the absence of a wider trade deal after the Brexit implementation period.

It would see the UK remain in the customs union and Northern Ireland additionally tied to EU single market rules on goods.

May is attempting to find an alternative to the current backstop format to win over critics of her deal, including the DUP.

O’Neill, who accused the DUP of advancing a “poisonous” position on Brexit, said the backstop could not be time limited.

“Let’s be very clear, there is no room for movement on the backstop - the backstop is the bottom line, it is an insurance policy and it fails to become a backstop if there is a time limit,” she said.

“So the DUP are playing fast and loose with people’s livelihoods here, they are playing fast and loose with our economy and they are absolutely on the wrong side of the Brexit piece.

“So there will be no opening of the Withdrawal Agreement and there will be no time limit on the backstop.”

There have been calls from some anti-Brexit campaigners for Sinn Fein to take their seats in the House of Commons to help prevent a Brexit disaster.

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