Northern Ireland’s three unionist parties have protested at the remaining Stormont parties writing to the EU in support of the backstop.
Alliance’s Naomi Long, the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill and the Green Party’s Clare Bailey all wrote an open letter to the president of the European Council Donald Tusk to warn of their “grave concerns” about the trajectory towards a no-deal Brexit. Mr Tusk helps broker compromise among member states.
They wrote to confirm support for the backstop contained in the draft Withdrawal Agreement, which Theresa May was unable to get through Parliament.
“It is our view that a legally operable guarantee to protect the Good Friday Agreement, maintain north-south co-operation and preserve the all-island economy and to prevent a return to physical infrastructure on our border or physical checks at or near the border is necessary to preserve the progress that we have made,” they wrote.
However, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson responded that the best way to protect the Belfast Agreement is to reach a “sensible deal” with the EU.
“The Belfast Agreement was about balancing the views of unionists and nationalists yet these parties want to foist a deal on Northern Ireland which every unionist party opposes,” he said. “So much for those parties’ commitments to a shared future.”
UUP leader Robin Swann said the letter came as no surprise – but that did not mean it was correct. “Rather than protecting the Belfast Agreement, the backstop represents a direct threat to it,” he said. “It undermines the principle of consent and short circuits democracy.”
TUV leader Jim Allister added: “Make no mistake about it, the backstop is an EU/nationalist ploy to break up the UK. Once more the anti-unionist Alliance Party is emerging in its true colours.”