Mixed reaction to Brexit vote defeat from Northern Ireland politicians

British prime minister Theresa May speaks in the House of Commons after losing the vote on her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement 
Cate McCurry, Press Association

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has said that politicians in Westminster "must wake up to the reality" that there can be no Brexit deal without a backstop in place for the Irish border issue.

His comments come after MPs voted against Theresa May's Brexit Withdrawal Deal.

Mr Eastwood said that Northern Ireland must be protected through a backstop.

"The naive belief in Westminster that a better deal can be negotiated with Brussels is merely postponing the inevitable," he said.

"That fact remains - there is no way to avoid a hard border in Ireland if Northern Ireland leaves the customs union and single market. That is why a backstop is essential.

"Northern Ireland's economy and stability can't be sacrificed because politicians in London have failed to recognise the obvious."

UUP leader Robin Swann said the defeat of the Withdrawal Agreement was "entirely predictable".

"The prime minister and the team around her have been trying to resurrect their doomed Withdrawal Agreement for weeks," he said.

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"They weren't listening despite the will of Parliament, in opposition to this agreement, being clear for weeks."

Clare Bailey, leader of the Green Party, called for a People's Vote.

She said: "Westminster and Theresa May's government are in chaos. A People's Vote is a must.

"The conditions under which the UK will leave the European Union have been set out and the final say must sit with the people."

Alliance leader Naomi Long also backed a People's Vote.

She said: "What is surprising is the margin of the defeat suffered by the government. However, that should not cloud the fact those who rejected the deal did so for vastly different reasons," she said.

"The Brexit process has been defined by a flawed concept, incompatible red-lines, unrealistic expectations and imaginary solutions.

"Parliament last week rejected a no-deal Brexit, recognising it would be disaster for the UK, and a catastrophe for Northern Ireland."

TUV leader Jim Allister said it was "time to make Brussels face reality".

He tweeted: "Delighted Mrs May's treacherous deal got its just desserts in the House of Commons. It deserved no better. (The) PM needs to now present (the) EU the unequivocal choice of ditch the backstop or face no deal."

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said the result will concern the Northern Ireland business community.

"Northern Ireland businesses desperately need certainty about the UK's future trading relationship with the EU and will be severely disadvantaged by a no deal," he added.

"A no-deal Brexit means that Northern Ireland households will face higher prices and less choice on the shelves something they can ill afford.

"We are now closer than ever to the possibility of a no deal that will be a disaster for Northern Ireland."

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "This is a disappointing but not unexpected result.

While the Prime Minister's draft Withdrawal Bill was in no way perfect, it was definitely preferable to crashing out of the EU with no deal.

"The government now needs to work on a cross-party basis with Labour and other opposition parties to reach a broader agreement for a withdrawal deal and secure the transition period, protect jobs and a positive future relationship with the EU."

Director general of the British Irish Chamber, John McGrane said: "The British Irish Chamber regrets the outcome in Westminster this evening. The chamber believes the passing of the Withdrawal Agreement is the only option currently available that will ensure Brexit happens in an orderly way.

"There is a business imperative that we avoid a no-deal Brexit. We await the UK Government's Plan B and hope that it will offer a way forward that can not only secure the support of politicians but will also deliver certainty and security for business, trade and jobs."

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