Brexit: Parties in north and south warn border not up for debate
Political parties from the north and the Republic were in agreement that the backstop is a vital part of any Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.
Representatives from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, SDLP, The Green Party, Labour Party, Social Democrats and People Before Profit, all spoke today at the All-Island Civic Dialogue hosted by the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
All parties, who hail from across the political spectrum both in the north and south, had a rare moment of unison as they noted their constituents were worried about the effect of Brexit on jobs, security, farming and the economy.
The border, however, was the key issue for every party.
"The British prime minister is counting down the clock demanding a renegotiation of her own agreement and we do now face a possible no-deal crash due to British belligerence or incompetence," said Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.
"No-one knows where Brexit will land, but there is no good Brexit, hard or soft, but a question of the degree of damage, the impact on trade, citizens' rights, the peace process and Irish-British relations.
"The Withdrawal Agreement is imperfect but will mitigate the worst excesses of Brexit ... backstop is a vital insurance policy and bare minimum of what we need."
SDLP Brexit spokesman Daniel McCrossan, who represents a border town, said the impact of a no-deal Brexit could be catastrophic.
"I hear daily very genuine concerns, the fear of a border, and I want to make it clear there can be no return of the past and no return of any hard border to divide the people of this island.
"We need to remain united across this island and that the backstop is totally and fully protected, and we must protect the Good Friday Agreement from being dismantled by the British government and the DUP."
Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry, lamented the implications for citizens across Northern Ireland.
"There is no such thing as a sensible Brexit, it is a self-inflicted wound with implications for all of UK.
"To be very clear, any form of negotiated Brexit does require the backstop and that backstop has to be open-ended and all-weather, and to be anything other, it is not a backstop.
Green Party leader Clare Bailey noted that Northern Ireland voted to remain in the Brexit vote.
"Northern Ireland voted to remain, and we feel we are being dragged out against our will and that should not be forgotten," she said.
"We believe the only democratic way forward is to put the final deal to the people and ask them: 'Is this what you want?'
"We have No-Deal Brexiteers advocating for No-Deal Brexit and openly admitting they've never read the Good Friday Agreement. The only voice we have in Westminster is the DUP, who were always anti-agreement."