Northern Ireland’s DUP calls for Brexit ‘refit’ of Good Friday Agreement

The UK will demand that the EU agree to changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol in talks in the coming days, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said on Monday (8 February). [EPA-EFE]

Northern Ireland’s largest party, the Democratic Unionist Party, on Wednesday called for a “refit” of the British province’s 1998 peace accord “to take account of any new Brexit deal.”

Arlene Foster, who made the call in a speech in Dublin, did not specify what changes would need to be made, but said they would allow a post-Brexit environment to be managed in a more “pro-active and democratic manner.”

“We want to see a refit of some of the structures of the Belfast Agreement to reflect the new emerging relationships – both between Northern Ireland and the Republic as well as between the United Kingdom and the Republic,” she said.

“Updated arrangements to take account of any new Brexit deal secured would allow the new environment to be managed in a pro-active and democratic manner,” she said.

The Democratic Unionist Party’s opposition to the so-called “backstop” mechanism to maintain a seamless Irish border after Britain exits the European Union has proven a formidable obstacle to clinching an EU-UK divorce deal.

The Irish backstop, the key obstacle to a deal, aims to ensure no customs or regulatory controls are imposed on the border between the British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit.

There will be no Brexit deal without an Irish backstop, EU officials repeat on every occasion of Brexit talks.

However, the EU might be willing to revive a proposal that would keep only Northern Ireland in the bloc’s orbit to maintain a seamless border to Ireland, and was open to giving the UK another extension.

DUP backing could prove decisive in securing parliamentary approval for any alternative arrangement, which would be needed to avoid a disorderly Brexit on 31 October.

Foster said in the speech that the DUP wanted to secure a deal.

Risk of no-deal Brexit 'very real', Juncker tells EU lawmakers

The risk of a no-deal Brexit remains ‘very real’, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned MEPs in Strasbourg on Wednesday but said he is prepared to work “day in day out, morning until night” to strike a deal.

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