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Mixed reaction to Theresa May's call for 'respect' from the EU

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald during an interview at the Sinn Fein party headquarters in Belfast. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday July 30, 2018. See PA story IRISH McDonald. Photo credit should read: Liam McBurney/PA Wire.

THERESA May's tough talking on the Brexit negotiations has been greeted with both praise and criticism.

The Tory leader's rejection of the EU proposal to keep Northern Ireland in the customs union with checks on goods travelling to Britain was described by Mary Lou McDonald as a "deflection".

The Sinn Féin president said Mrs May's statement had been billed as a major one but proved to be nothing more than "an exercise in tired rhetoric".

"Rather than accepting that her so-called Chequers plan fails to resolve fundamental issues, Theresa May has engaged in deflection," she said.

"Her focus has unfortunately remained on infighting within her own party and her pact with the DUP, instead of coming to an acceptable negotiating position."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood accused the British government of "belligerence" and said the prime minister was doubling down on her already unworkable efforts to deliver Brexit.

"Despite the EU attempting to give the UK encouragement to take steps that will be in the best interests of our citizens the prime minister has chosen to continue with her failed strategy," he said.

The taoiseach conceded that the negotiations were entering a "rocky patch" but said a deal was still possible.

Leo Varadkar said he was determined to keep working to avoid a cliff-edge scenario next March.

He denied there was any division among the European Union leaders about the matter.

"There is a sense created perhaps in the UK press that there was division around the table among the European Union, among the 27 – there was not," the Fine Gael leader said.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds welcomed Mrs May's rejection of a border in the Irish Sea but said she must "stand up" for UK interests.

The North Belfast MP said his party had been in regular contact with the British government over recent days and weeks.

"I think the prime minister's very firm reiteration of not breaking up the United Kingdom, of the importance of what she has described as our precious union, is coming across very, very strongly," he said.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann also welcomed the prime minister's statement.

"As the Ulster Unionist Party has said before, Brexit cannot and must not be used to establish an internal border within the United Kingdom of any form. The referendum was about whether or not the UK left the EU, it was not about whether or not Northern Ireland left the UK," he said.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the Chequers plan had been "developed in a bubble" and that the EU had warned it wouldn't work.

"The only options to avoid a hard border in Ireland after Brexit are either the UK remaining in a customs union and the Single Market or the provision of special arrangements for Northern Ireland," he said.

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