Sinn Féin delegation meets EU’s chief Brexit negotiator in Brussels
Michel Barnier to meet DUP tomorrow
EU proposals to safeguard the invisible Border represent a significant acknowledgment of the importance of Northern Ireland remaining part of the Customs Union and Single Market, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has told the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.
Ms McDonald’s assessment, following her meeting with Mr Barnier in Brussels on Monday, is expected to create a point of friction when he meets a delegation led by DUP leader Arlene Foster on Tuesday.
While the “backstop” provisions proposed in the Ireland protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement do not go as far as Sinn Féin’s hope for “special designated status” for the North, they reflected “recognition of the need for a bespoke arrangement for Northern Ireland”, Ms McDonald said.
Everyone committed to preserving the invisible Border was in agreement with the need to keep Northern Ireland in the Customs Union, she added.
Ms McDonald said the Sinn Féin delegation, which included the party’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill and MEP Matt Carthy, had a fruitful “meeting of minds” with Mr Barnier at which they “shared their frustrations about Theresa May”.
Referring to the British prime minister, Ms McDonald said “the ball was now back in her court” and it was up to the British to show how the commitments they had made could be operationalised.
She also expressed concern about draft treaty text on preserving citizens’ rights in the North which she said needed to be elaborated and tied down.