Sinn Féin seeks emergency summit on Irish Brexit issues

Mary Lou McDonald and party’s Northern leader Michelle O’Neill have talks with Michel Barnier

Mary Lou McDonald: “The reality is that those who brought us Brexit ought to have considered all of the consequences of that. Brexit is not there of our making or of our choice”

Mary Lou McDonald: “The reality is that those who brought us Brexit ought to have considered all of the consequences of that. Brexit is not there of our making or of our choice”

 

The EU should convene an emergency summit in September to resolve the Irish Brexit issues, Sinn Féin has told Michel Barnier.

Speaking after a meeting with the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit, party leader Mary Lou McDonald said the proposed Border protocol was the “absolute minimum required to protect Irish interests” and from which there could be no rowing back in talks. That was the case, she said, even if it meant the need for checks on goods in the Irish Sea.

“There are already checks in the Irish Sea. So if that is the case then that is the case. The reality is that those who brought us Brexit ought to have considered all of the consequences of that. Brexit is not there of our making or of our choice...”

Ms McDonald was in Brussels on Monday with the party’s Northern leader, Michelle O’Neill for the hour-long talks with Mr Barnier.

The Sinn Féin leader took issue with the Taoiseach’s suggestion that he should not make preparations for Border infrastructure in the event of a no deal.

“The only way that the no-hard-border commitment will be realised is by a legal agreement and by legal text. You can’t wish these things away. Borders are jurisdictional markers,” Ms McDonald said. “ In the absence of an agreement or a protocol there will be a hardening of the Border. De facto. That’s what will happen. So we shouldn’t pretend that that’s not the case...”

She said that at their meeting Mr Barnier had been “categorical” in insisting that “that the Irish question must be answered in a legally operable way before the talks move on to the negotiations on the future relationship”.

She also said Mr Barnier had strongly defended the Belfast Agreement. “Dublin and Ireland are certainly not alone in wishing to protect Irish interests North and South.”

‘Provocative’

Ms McDonald said British prime minister Theresa May had come to Ireland to “listen and reassure”, but she had done neither. “Her approach was provocative and negative, and consistently rowing back on political commitments entered into last December.”

She said two years after Brexit, Ms May’s Conservatives still have no credible answer for Ireland.

“What Downing Street need to do is accept that there is an exceptionality in respect of the island of Ireland, that a tailored response is required for the island of Ireland, and they need to start a serious intensive negotiation because a crash is in nobody’s interest.

“We have made the case that the British strategy has been to play for time, to talk down the clock. That needs to stop, and we need to know that this cannot indefinitely drift through the summer and into the autumn.

“We have made clear that in our view there ought to be a summit in September, and that summit should be the point at which we have the answer to the Irish backstop. We made that case today to Mr Barnier.”