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Ireland Rejects British Emergency Plan on Brexit

08 November 2018

Brexit is undermining Northern Ireland's hard-won peace by creating tensions between Catholic and Protestant communities, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Saturday, even as hopes rose for a solution to the Irish border problem that has deadlocked negotiations.

In a public message to Mr Varadkar, Ms McDonald warned the backstop "cannot be diluted".

Last weekend, the London-based The Daily Telegraph reported that British chief negotiator for the Brexit, Dominic Raab, privately asked Coveney for the UK's right to unilaterally deactivate the emergency plan.

But ministers are now insisting that the backstop agreement must contain a mechanism for the United Kingdom to terminate the backstop without the agreement of the EU.

The hardline stance, which has stunned Irish officials, is poised to delay the Brexit divorce deal by at least another week.

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Ms McDonald was accompanied by her party's vice president Michelle O'Neill and South Belfast MLA Mairtin O'Muilleoir at Belfast City Hall as they met business leaders who have raised concerns about the impact of Brexit on labour supply.

This comes after backbenchers are pressuring May to ensure there is a time limit on the backstop.

"This option will be used until then, until we have a new agreement to replace it", said Varadkar.

After a meeting in Dublin on Friday with Britain's Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, May's de facto deputy, both Coveney and Lidington said the two sides were "very close" to resolving differences on the border issue.

The sides have moved closer to agreeing on customs arrangements under the emergency Irish border fix, sources in Brussels have said, which would keep all of the United Kingdom in a customs arrangement with the European Union, as London has sought.

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Some 43 per cent said they would support a second referendum that was a binary choice between a deal and staying in, with 37 per cent opposing a vote on those terms.

The rapid pace of the negotiations requires the British government to adopt a "war cabinet" approach.

This was to be a "backstop" insurance clause in the Brexit treaty, to be triggered if, by the end of a status-quo transition period, no better way had been agreed to keep the Irish border operating more or less as it does now.

Mrs May proposed to keep the entire United Kingdom tied to the EU's Customs Union as a compromise, while Brussels was pressing for Northern Ireland to be subject to Single Market regulations as well.

By Friday, the Guardian reports, the European Union will have to decide whether there has been enough progress towards a deal to justify scheduling an emergency summit later this month to finalise it.

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Ireland Rejects British Emergency Plan on Brexit