Brexit: Jim Allister warns not to be hoodwinked by ‘sleight of hand’

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Barrister-turned-politician Jim Allister has warned of the potential for “sleight of hand” to be used in an effort to pacify unionists who are fearful of the prime minister’s deal.

Echoing earlier statements, he said mere “assurances” from politicians or EU officials about the nature of the planned Irish border backstop will not be enough to assuage concerns.

Jim Allister

Jim Allister

Mr Allister, MLA for North Antrim and leader of the TUV, said that, “no matter how they are packaged”, such promises will not change “one iota” of the written, legally enforceable text of Theresa May’s blueprints.

“I hear talk of ‘protocols’ or ‘codicils’,” said Mr Allister.

“But given the treaty with the EU is not yet ratified by either side it has not yet attained the status whereby a protocol would be the appropriate or necessary mechanism to perfect change.

“If legal change is intended, then simply amend the text ... Patently, clarifications, letters of explanation or political assurances have no legal status or effect.

“So, I caution those who have stood firm so far not to be hoodwinked by any sleight of hand or subtlety of language. Hold firm to the insistence that the backstop must go.”

He said the idea that the Brexit withdrawal agreement must contain a backstop was always a “hoax”, and falling for it was “one of the most spectacular failures of Mrs May’s”.