Backstop is not a bargaining chip - Mary Lou McDonald TD
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has said today that there can be no watering down of the EU positions on the backstop and that any changes must be to expand the backstop to include human and social rights.
Teachta McDonald was responding to comments made by the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier today.
"Mr Barnier today restated his intention to change the EU's position on the backstop.
"He first made these comments after the publication of the Chequers paper.
"He says that such changes will strive to improve the backstop - but once the backstop is put on the table there is a risk that it will lose its shape.
"Any change to the EU's stated position from February of this year as to what the backstop will entail cannot be allowed to happen.
'“It is becoming increasingly obvious that the British Government does not want to deliver on the Irish backstop agreed last December.
“This agreement represented an insurance policy for Ireland in the event of no deal on a future trading relationship between Britain and the EU.
“It is obvious that by introducing ‘time limits’ the British want to hold on to the Irish issues as a negotiating hand right up until the conclusion of future relationship talks. It is their wish to turn the Irish backstop into nothing more than an extension of the implementation period.
“The EU must hold firm. The backstop is not a bargaining chip.
"We must not accept a fudge and allow resolving Irish issues drift into wider trade talks between the EU and Britain.
"This is precisely what the backstop was to avoid.
"The Backstop is the absolute minimum necessary to avoid a hard border, but it must also protect the rights of EU and Irish citizens in the north in the event of a hard Brexit.
"This is where improvements can be made, and here is where Barnier's focus should be.
"The Irish government must not allow any watering down of the Backstop to appease Tory hard Brexiteers.
"Such a move will not be countenanced by the people of Ireland.”