DUP unconcerned at renewed UK pledge to ‘backstop’

Fianna Fáil spokesman on Brexit says new deal ‘a fudge’ to enable talks to move to trade

Labour leader Brendan Howlin: he said the deal on the transition period provided no clarity around how a hard border would be avoided

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is unconcerned by the UK government's renewed commitment to a "backstop" solution avoiding a hard border post-Brexit, a party source has said.

The party, which keeps Conservative prime minister Theresa May in power at Westminster, has said her government had not changed its position on the EU’s draft legal text on the Withdrawal Agreement, and that it was unconcerned because vital sections have yet to be agreed.

“There is work to be done,” a DUP source said. “Work is ongoing.”

The EU and UK agreed to a 21-month transition period after Brexit in March 2019, but only after London accepted a “backstop” arrangement to maintain regulatory alignment between Northern Ireland and the Republic in the absence of a wider deal on Brexit preventing a hard border.


Three weeks ago Mrs May and the DUP rejected the fallback proposal from Brussels as that default would keep Northern Ireland under EU economic rules, separating it from the rest of the UK.

The DUP said in a statement there had been “no agreement” around how arrangements of any potential backstop or other border options would work.

The party noted that the EU-UK deal in December committed to no borders in Ireland or between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and that the UK rejected the EU’s proposed legal text on the backstop last month.

“We will continue to work with the [UK]government on these matters, and will be guided by the principle that there can be no internal border within the United Kingdom as we leave the European Union.”


UUP MEP Jim Nicholson said it was vital that the UK government not accept a final Brexit deal that diminished the constitutional integrity of the UK.

“Any ‘backstop’ separating Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK was unacceptable in December, it is unacceptable now, and it will be unacceptable in the future.”

Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill said while she welcomed the reassurance of the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to guarantee no hard border, she saw “some equivocation from the British government again” despite its commitment to the backstop in December.

Fianna Fáil spokesman on Brexit Stephen Donnelly described the new deal as “a worrying retrograde step on the North and a potential hard border” and “a fudge” to enable talks to move on to trade.

“I am worried that attempts are being made by the British negotiators to nominally agree to certain provisions on the border in the hope of moving on to trade negotiations which are their main concern as far I can see.”

He said a backstop to avoid a hard border needed “absolute certainty and support from both sides” .


Labour leader Brendan Howlin TD urged vigilance on the agreement, saying the deal on the transition period provided no clarity around how a hard border would be avoided.

“While the so-called ‘backstop’ technically remains in place we appear to be no closer to any solution on how it will work in practice. Theresa May has agreed it, ruled it out, now ruled it back in again. It doesn’t inspire confidence.”

Stephen Farry MLA, Brexit spokesman for the Alliance Party, expressed scepticism over any real progress being made on the Border, warning that it could unravel other progress made if not addressed swiftly.

Jim Allister, MLA for North Antrim and leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice, said that UK agreeing to the ‘backstop’ was “a back stab” for Northern Ireland.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times