DUBLIN (Reuters) – The Northern Irish party propping up Britain’s minority government is not asking for changes to the Brexit divorce deal that will “fundamentally undermine” what has been proposed, one of its senior lawmakers said on Thursday.
How to manage the land border between EU-member Ireland and British-run Northern Ireland – including an emergency “backstop” solution to prevent the return of extensive controls – has proven the most contentious element of Britain’s planned exit from the European Union.
While many in the pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) insist the backstop be removed completely from the deal, Jeffrey Donaldson suggested his party could back it if Britain was able to exit the insurance mechanism after a certain number of years.
However both Ireland and the EU have rejected inserting a time limit or unilateral escape clause, saying it would effectively mean that it is no longer a backstop at all.
“It might be a time limit to the backstop, it might be unilateral means of withdrawal, it doesn’t need to be something earth shattering. We’re not asking for something that will fundamentally undermine what has been proposed,” Donaldson said in unscripted remarks at a Dublin-based think tank.
“We want to try and find an outcome that works for both parts of this island, avoids a hard border on the island or a new border in the Irish Sea and is capable of commanding the support of both London and Brussels.”
Donaldson warned that if “Dublin continued to ignore this reality” that many pro-British unionists in Northern Ireland reject the backstop, is will drive all sides toward a “no deal” Brexit – in which Britain left the EU without legal arrangements to smooth the transition.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editng by Mark Heinrich