The European Parliament has backed a resolution thich “emphasises” a “backstop solution” to the Irish border post Brexit that critics warn could seperate Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.
The motion, which calls for an “association agreement” to deal with the future UK-EU relationship, was backed by 544 with 110 voting against.
The wording of a section of the 14-page resolution that deals with the Irish border “emphasises” that, in the absence of an alternative, a “backstop” proposal that would see Northern Ireland with the European single market while the rest of the UK leaves, provides a “concrete solution”.
DUP MEP Diane Dodds had branded the resolution “aggressive interference” in UK affairs by the EU.
Yesterday, DUP MEP Diane Dodds had said in advance of the vote: “We hear of the EU desire for a close partnership with the UK post-Brexit, yet there is little spirit of conciliation and compromise. Nowhere is this more evident than in the draft legal text on Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which this resolution supports.”
She added: “This is aggressive interference in the internal affairs of the United Kingdom. It would be disastrous for Northern Ireland economically and it violates the principle of consent - a core principle of the Belfast Agreement. It goes well beyond the Belfast Agreement in its North-South proposals.”
Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson, however, has welcomed the outcome of the vote.
She said: “By voting for this resolution, the European Parliament has made clear that it will not accept any diminution of rights for people in the north as a result of Brexit. That includes employment rights, social rights and democratic rights.
“It also formally welcomes the backstop option which would see the north remaining in the customs union and elements of the single market.”
She continued: “This sends out a clear message to the Tories and the Brexit negotiations that a unique solution is needed for the north. Unionism also needs to reflect that the UKIP amendments they supported were roundly rejected by 576 MEPs while the resolution which backs special status was widely supported.
“There is now a responsibility on the Taoiseach to act and set out how he intends to deliver on his pledge that Irish citizens in the north will never again be left behind by an Irish government.”
Ms Anderson added: “50 years on from the Civil Rights Movement, the Taoiseach must not state how his government will ensure that the democratic rights of people living in the north, including the right to representation in the European Parliament, will be protected and upheld.
“The most simple way to to this is through securing special status for the north within the EU.”