Brexit: Commons decision on customs ‘safeguards’ North’s place in UK

Varadkar, Coveney can ‘foot stamp all they like’ but NI outside single market - DUP MP

The decision of the the House of Commons to support customs proposals tabled by hard Brexiteers on Monday has safeguarded Northern Ireland's position in the United Kingdom, DUP MP Sammy Wilson has said.

Speaking after amendments to a customs bill, introduced in response to Theresa May's proposals for a softer Brexit, were approved on Monday, Mr Wilson said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney can "foot stamp all they like" but the British parliament has endorsed the North remaining outside the EU single market and customs union.

In welcoming the British government decision to accept a legal guarantee that there will be no post Brexit border in the Irish Sea, Mr Wilson said that by law Northern Ireland would be treated no differently to Britain when the UK leaves the European Union regardless of the backstop arrangement.

"Even the most pro-EU MPs have agreed that the Border arrangements demanded by (EU Brexit negotiator Michel) Barnier and Varadkar, are not acceptable since they would break up the United Kingdom," the East Antrim MP said.



“Barnier can bluster, Varadkar and Coveney can foot stamp all they like, but the fact remains that the prime minister has now got the support of whole of parliament in opposing their demands that Northern Ireland would stay in the single market and customs union.

“Not only does this safeguard Northern Ireland’s position in the United Kingdom but equally important, it ensures Northern Ireland producers will have free access to our biggest market in Great Britain, thus safeguarding tens of thousands of Northern Ireland jobs.”

The House of Commons accepted without a vote an amendment ruling out a Border between Northern Ireland and Britain while two other amendments from Brexiteers were passed by just three votes.

South Belfast SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said the "writing is on the wall, and written in bold; Remain voters and nationalism have been let down and brought one step closer to a catastrophic no-deal Brexit".

“Time and again, business and third sector representatives express frustration that local concerns and voices are not heard in this debate. Our MPs are refusing to make them heard,” she said.


“There are many ways to influence Brexit but this limping, destructive government just won by three votes. Ten DUP MPs are chasing extreme Brexit and seven Sinn Féin MPs don’t show up - either or both could have comfortably protected the interests of people here.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman said the party's line on abstentionism from the House of Commons was consistently clear and supporters were fully aware of that when electing seven party MPs to Westminster.

Alliance Brexit spokesman Stephen Farry said the House of Commons had "undermined the interests of Northern Ireland and the Good Friday agreement by passing amendments backed by hard Brexiteers".

“Any no deal outcome would be catastrophic. But unless the UK government can perform a U-turn, this is where we are heading. Time is running out,”he added.

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times