GFA requires Stormont input on Brexit, says MP

A senior DUP has said the Good Friday Agreement requires Stormont input on Brexit, after nationalists lobbied Brussels to freeze the assembly out of dicussions.

Nationalists in Northern Ireland said today that Stormont should not have a say over the Brexit backstop.

The British Government is expected to table new proposals in a bid to break the Irish border impasse, but a role for the devolved Assembly has been speculated.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s DUP supporters are adamantly opposed to any solution which would see any divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Consulting Stormont on the backstop could effectively give the DUP a veto on a deal.

Pro-Remain parties including the SDLP and Sinn Fein met EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday.

The Green Party and Alliance Party were also represented.

During a post-meeting press conference, SDLP and Sinn Fein leaders Colum Eastwood and Michelle O’Neill told the BBC giving the suspended Stormont Assembly in Belfast any say over the backstop would be unacceptable.

Mr Eastwood said: “The time to deliver on a deal is now. The North cannot be left to the fate of a reckless, no-deal Brexit.”

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill said the meeting signified a clear show of unity against Brexit by the pro-remain Assembly parties.

Ms O’Neill said: “The parties stood together in the heart of the EU to make it absolutely clear that the DUP and British Government do not represent the cross-community majority of people of the North who voted against Brexit, and who do not want us to be excluded from the customs union or single market which only serves to increase business costs, and hamper trade, jobs and economic opportunity.

She added: “We asserted our common position that the ‘backstop’ as already agreed must be maintained and is the absolute bottom line for Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance and Green Party.”

However DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson responded on Twitter to challenge the nationalist stance.

Earlier in the week Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance said the Belfast Agreement was “sacrosanct” he said. “Today they reject Assembly involvement in EU backstop and dump the need for cross community consensus, all pillars of [the] Agreement, thus negating principle of consent re expanding cross border links. Not a chance!”

The EU and UK have expressed hope a deal can be reached to avoid a hard Brexit.

Time is running out to secure an agreement and ratify it before the UK leaves in March.

Senior Democratic Unionist, Sammy Wilson, one of the DUP’s 10 MPs at Westminster who are holding up the minority Government, also went on Twitter.

He said: “If she is rolling back on her pledge that there will be no barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, then the Prime Minister should be under no illusions; we will vote against her deal and it will go nowhere.”

The EU and UK are at odds over the Irish border and the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan is under attack from Brexiteers in her own party.

An EU leaders’ summit is due in Brussels on October 17 and if a deal is close a special Brexit meeting could be called in November to sign off on it.