May seeks to reassure citizens of Northern Ireland over Brexit

Posted February 07, 2019

British Prime Minister Theresa May told business leaders in Northern Ireland Tuesday that she is seeking changes to the Brexit withdrawal agreement but not the total removal of the backstop plan that is the most contentious part of the deal.

European Union president Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday, the European Union said, as Brussels and London seek ways to save the Brexit deal.

The Alternative Arrangements Working Group (AAWG), a new initiative made up of pro-remain Conservatives and members of the European Research Group (ERG), a group of lawmakers who lobby for a harder Brexit, was set to meet May for the first time on Monday to flesh out alternatives to the backstop, the insurance policy created to maintain a soft border in Ireland should future talks with the EU collapse, Efe news agency reported on Monday.

In a speech in Belfast, the Prime Minister restated her "unshakeable" commitment to avoiding a hard border in Ireland after Brexit, pledging: "The UK Government will not let that happen".

The EU will not renegotiate the divorce deal and the Irish backstop but alternatives could be worked on after Britain leaves, chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday.

Many U.K. lawmakers, particularly in Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party, say it could keep Britain tied to the European Union for too long, even indefinitely.

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But he and Mr Varadkar were preparing for the "possible fiasco" of a no-deal Brexit.

A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said Mrs May was coming to Dublin to discuss the ongoing efforts to restore the Northern Ireland executive and protect the Good Friday Agreement in light of the current Brexit situation.

They argue that the United Kingdom could, in effect, find itself "trapped" in this backstop arrangement for many years.

The last time Theresa May was here she was expounding the values of the backstop and now we are in a situation where apparently the alternatives to the backstop are being explored.

"While she seems to be talking about looking at alternative arrangements, her reluctance to move past the 29th of March, I think is going to put a lot of pressure on what Westminster can do". He said executives at the firm had "commented on the need for us to come together and resolve the question of our future trade relationship with the European Union".

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May's government, said it wanted to get a deal agreed but made clear the border backstop had to be replaced.

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Nissan, which has already received 2.6 million pounds ($3.4 million) of a nine-year, 61 million-pound program of government support, will have to reapply for the grants "in the light of the changed investments that they're making, " Clark told the House of Commons.

He said the "pro-Brexit stance" of May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn meant that "today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for remain".

The statement said: "No Deal would heighten the concerns of our European Union staff, and will make it more hard for museum in the United Kingdom to retain European Union staff with specific areas of expertise".

The simple yet vital fact is that the backstop is an essential insurance policy that would ensure an open border unless and until this is provided for by the future UK-EU relationship.

The EU has repeatedly said it will not amend the backstop, but Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz suggested the bloc could agree to some form of legal assurances on how it might be used.

The free flow of people and goods across the near-invisible frontier now underpins both the local economy and Northern Ireland's peace process.

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