Mary Lou McDonald accuses Theresa May of playing for time on Brexit

Sinn Féin leader has hour-long meeting with British PM in Downing Street

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald outside Westminster  before meeting   Theresa May.  Photograph:   Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald outside Westminster before meeting Theresa May. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

 

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has accused Theresa May of playing for time on Brexit ahead of this month’s European Council in Brussels and called on the Government to take a tougher approach in negotiations.

Speaking after an hour-long meeting with the prime minister at Downing Street, Ms McDonald said she told Ms May the British government’s approach was reckless and unacceptable.

“They’re running down the clock. They’re going into the June summit with no intention of having any kind of definitive or substantial conclusion. They are disavowing the backstop. Not alone do they not have an operable, acceptable proposal of their own, they have put clear blue water between themselves and what was agreed in December and what was set out in March,” she told The Irish Times.

“I think this now calls for the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste to take a very firm stand and indeed for our European partners. They cannot facilitate British game-playing when we know that the sole concern here is to move to the next phase of the negotiations, really with no progress and much less a definitive answer.”

Concerns

Ms McDonald said she was not calling for the negotiations to be halted until more progress was made on Ireland’s concerns, including a backstop to guarantee that there will be no hard border.

“We need to go back to first principles and the initial assertion that the budget, citizenship issues and the issues of Ireland were prerequisites. Or to use Donald Tusk’s phrase, a policy of Ireland first. Because what is happening here is a reality of Ireland last, Irish considerations not at all,” she said.

“I think that is very dangerous and I think it would be wrong for our Government at home or for our European partners to allow that to persist. And I’m saying that in the discussions, it now needs to be made absolutely clear to the British side that they will not skip on to the issues of the new relationship and their withdrawal in the absence of an operable proposal that protects Irish interests and the Good Friday Agreement, the status quo in other words on the island of Ireland.”

Ms McDonald was accompanied in Downing Street by Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, and the party’s new MP for West Tyrone, Órfhlaith Begley. Ms May was joined by Northern Ireland secretary, Karen Bradley.