Jim Nicholson: The backstop problem needs addressed and dealt with now

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney on stage at the Convention centre, Dublin, at an event to brief businesses on getting prepared for Brexit in October. "The backstop is being used by Dublin and EU to undermine the Belfast Agreement," writes Jim Nicholson. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney on stage at the Convention centre, Dublin, at an event to brief businesses on getting prepared for Brexit in October. "The backstop is being used by Dublin and EU to undermine the Belfast Agreement," writes Jim Nicholson. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

This week the public have been faced with more uncertainty over Brexit with a senior member of the DUP saying that we are likely heading towards no deal whilst his party leader was saying that we should continue to work towards a sensible deal.

It is time for the government to step in, provide some certainty and make a clear statement of intent with regards to the backstop.

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

The disastrous inclusion of the backstop in the December agreement has been a millstone around the neck of the Brexit negotiations.

The fact that the DUP allowed it to happen is a question which will have to be answered given their partnership with the Conservative Party.

It is being used by the Irish government and the EU negotiating team as a means to undermine the Belfast agreement and the principle of consent with the Taoiseach launching repeated verbal assaults.

It is now time for the government to take some hard decisions and leave the EU in no doubt as to what our bottom line is in regards to the backstop.

Publishing the legal advice from the attorney general on its own won’t answer everybody’s questions, but what we do need is a clear statement of intent from the government.

If the government wishes to publish them in tandem, so be it. The government should make clear that the EU needs to move its position on the backstop so that we can achieve a sensible deal for the benefit of all our people.

The backstop is totally unacceptable to unionists.

The constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom is not up for negotiation no matter how much Leo Varadkar may wish it so.

The government should not let the backstop perpetually hang over Northern Ireland and the integrity of the United Kingdom like a Sword of Damocles.

If a fudge is agreed now which allows trade negotiations to proceed but which pushes the backstop problem down the line a couple of years, it will only come back to haunt the United Kingdom as a whole and Northern Ireland in particular when the transition period ends in 2020.

What happens then? Do not underestimate the potential consequences which that will have. Theresa May might not even be prime minister by then.

It will have huge consequences for our country and if not handled correctly will provide succour for those whose long established aim is to destabilise the United Kingdom.

The backstop problem needs addressed and dealt with now.

Jim Nicholson, MEP, Brussels