Robin Swann claimed the Irish border backstop proposal which would effectively see the country continue to follow European trade regulations was an abomination of the 1998 Belfast Agreement. He said Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU negotiator Michel Barnier should honour the principle of consent by which Northern Ireland’s constitutional status cannot be changed unless its people should decide so. Mr Swann said: “The DUP’s inept handling of Brexit right from before the referendum has now led us back to the Northern Ireland-only backstop that they first missed in 2017, despite my warnings. “I say to London, Brussels and Dublin that Northern Ireland will not be a dowry to the EU for the delivery of Brexit.
“And Leo Varadkar and Michel Barnier should go back to the negotiating table and respect and honour the principle of consent as it is actually written and not as they wish it was.”
He told a party meeting in East Belfast he acknowledged many of his members who were strong Remain advocates during the referendum campaign felt totally “misrepresented” by commentary around support for the backstop.
“There will be many twists and turns before March 29.
“But our focus must remain on making sure there are legal changes made to the Withdrawal Agreement text that acknowledge unionist concerns over the backstop.”
He said leaving the EU without a deal would be detrimental to Northern Ireland.
His remarks come after Michel Barnier, EU chief negotiator, offered Theresa May a deal that would divide Britain own the Irish Sea.
He announced yesterday he offered Britain a unilateral exit from the Irish backstop.
Mr Barnier said the UK Government was offered an opportunity to partially quit the mechanism to avoid a hard border on Ireland.
The French eurocrat told EU27 ambassadors at a secret meeting in Brussels Attorney General Geoffrey Cox was offered a fresh compromise in a bid to save Theresa May’s doomed Brexit deal.
However, it was made clear by Mr Cox and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay that Brussels’ offer was unacceptable.
Brexiteer Andrea Leadsom also condemned the deal.
The leader of the House of Commons said this morning: “There is still hope but I have to stay I’m deeply disappointed with what we are hearing coming out of the EU.
“I do have to ask myself what game are they playing here.”
A vote on the deal is expected to take place on Tuesday.