Northern Ireland news

MPs hear Brexit no deal 'off the table' after Northern Ireland border commitment

South Armagh born Conor McGinn was among dozens of rebel Labour MPs who voted on a House of Lords amendment

A COMMITMENT that there will be no "physical infrastructure, including border posts, or checks and controls" in Northern Ireland has effectively killed a no deal scenario with the EU, MPs have heard.

Brexit Secretary David Davis' decision to include the provision in the EU (Withdrawal) Bill has also made the maximum facilitation or "max fac" option - which would see new technology used to deal with cross-border trade - "unlawful".

Tory Remainers and Labour's shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, debating the Brexit bill for a second day in the Commons, said the inclusion of the Northern Ireland amendment meant the only option was to now "reproduce the customs union and the single market".

Sir Keir said: "If maximum facilitation does involve infrastructure checks or controls, it would be unlawful under the provision passed yesterday, therefore it cannot happen.

"The only answer to no hard border in Northern Ireland in the end is a customs union and high levels of market alignment, the fact that was accepted by the Government and turned into domestic law gives it a status it didn't have until yesterday."

Tory MP Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) responded to his point, saying: "It's huge, it actually says I think logically we will have to come to a customs union agreement, partnership, love dance, don't care what you call it, that's what we will need to avoid any border to Northern Ireland."

Tory grandee Ken Clarke said: "It was the most significant thing that happened yesterday, but in the cirtus that surrounded everything and the timetable stopped us debating it nobody.

"The legally binding commitment yesterday extends the needs of the Irish border to the whole of the United Kingdom."

Solicitor General Robert Buckland later said leaving with a no deal and trading under World Trade Organisation rules would be inconsistent with government policy on the Northern Ireland border.

South Armagh born Conor McGinn was among dozens of rebel Labour MPs who voted on a House of Lords amendment calling for European Economic Area (EEA) membership – effectively keeping the UK in the EU's single market.

The St Helens North MP told The Irish News that the UK needed to be in the single market and customs union to protect jobs and businesses in his constituency and to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland.

"EEA membership is not a perfect option for a future relationship with the EU but at this stage it is one of the few realistic ones left," he said.

"Two years on from the referendum and over a year since Article 50 was triggered and time is rapidly running out – visions for Brexit need to be replaced with plans for Brexit, otherwise we are heading towards a politically and economically catastrophic cliff edge."

Meanwhile, Stormont's pro-Remain parties yesterday released a joint statement voicing concern that Brexit would signal a "further regression on equality and rights".

The statement from Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and the Greens said there must be no diminution of rights, safeguards and equality as set out in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements.

They called for an "explicit guarantee" relating to the European Convention on Human Rights.

"We urge all political parties and both governments to intensify their efforts to ensure that outstanding rights and equality matters – including the Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland – are advanced as a matter of urgency," the statement said.

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