Backstop plan will ‘haunt us for years’, warns Trimble

Lord Trimble
Lord Trimble

The prime minister’s Brexit deal has sparked further clashes in the House of Lords, with former UUP leader Lord Trimble warning it has “perverse” implications for Northern Ireland.

As peers resumed their marathon three-day debate on the Withdrawal Agreement, the Tory peer said the Irish protocol undermined the Belfast Agreement and must be dropped.

He added: “It’s not the desire to leave the EU that’s causing the damage, it’s what the EU is doing by way of reprisal.

“If we don’t kill the backstop and this agreement now, it’s going to haunt us for years, decades, maybe even for generations as well.”

Tory former Cabinet minister Lord Hunt of Wirral backed the agreement and warned those who rejected it were “playing with fire”.

“If this agreement fails, there can be no guarantees of another one in its place,” he told peers.

He also urged Labour to put party politics aside, show some humility and warned: “The nation may never forgive them if they continue to try to play every twist and turn of this drama for party advantage.”

But Labour former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Murphy of Torfaen said Lord Hunt should direct his criticism at his own party, which was riven by “civil war” on the issue of Europe, and insisted the deal was doomed.

Lord Murphy said the principles of the Belfast Agreement had been ignored, undermining three decades of work.

He said there had been a failure both in negotiations to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly and on the Brexit deal, adding: “The result of all this is that the agreement is unquestionably doomed.”

Labour former Cabinet minister Lord Hain accused Mrs May of offering Parliament a “false choice”: vote for her “flawed” deal, which would deliver more uncertainty, or face a “truly catastrophic no-deal”.

“The deal doesn’t solve anything,” Lord Hain told the House.

“It just postpones the crunch until October 2020 with all the extra economic instability and business uncertainty that means.”

As Liberal Democrat peers continued to press for a people’s vote, Labour’s Lord Livermore, a former adviser to both the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown governments, said: “This deal is a humiliation for the UK.”

He added: “For the first time in living memory a government is deliberately pursuing a policy it knows will make the nation poorer.”