Vice president Michelle O’Neill questioned the rationale for delaying Brexit, which she said would deliver more “chaos and Tory infighting”. She said: “For Theresa May to extend the deadline you have to ask for what purpose, what would it serve? ”Will we get more of the same from Westminster, will we get more chaos, will we get more Tory infighting, or will we actually see a resolution? “There is a Withdrawal Agreement on the table, we have influenced that Withdrawal Agreement and the (Northern Ireland) protocol, and we want to see that delivered. Not because we think it is a good deal but because we think it is the least worst option.”
Ms O’Neill’s criticisms came ahead of a meeting of Sinn Fein’s northern membership in Belfast in which she was asked on her view of a potential delay to Brexit.
Prime Minister Theresa May has promised MPs a vote on delaying Brexit if Parliament rejects both her proposed Withdrawal Agreement and a no-deal exit.
The Irish backstop, which has resulted in a deadlock at Westminster, to maintain a free flowing border would be triggered in the absence of a wider trade deal after the Brexit implementation period.
Mrs May is attempting to find an alternative to the current backstop format to win over critics of her deal, including the DUP whose position has evolved since the start of the year.
The party had demanded the complete removal of the backstop from the withdrawal treaty, but has now signalled it could live with the measure as long as it was temporary.
Mrs O’Neill, who accused the DUP of advancing a “poisonous” position on Brexit, said the backstop could not be time limited.
She said: “Let’s be very clear, there is no room for movement on the backstop – the backstop is the bottom line, it is an insurance policy and it fails to become a backstop if there is a time limit.
“So the DUP are playing fast and loose with people’s livelihoods here, they are playing fast and loose with our economy and they are absolutely on the wrong side of the Brexit piece. So there will be no opening of the Withdrawal Agreement and there will be no time limit on the backstop.”
The Sinn Fein meeting in west Belfast saw South Down MP Chris Hazzard elected as the party’s new northern chair.