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Northern Ireland politicians could threaten British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal | Coastweek

BRUSSELS Belgium (Xinhua) -- European Council President Donald Tusk [left] shakes hands with British Prime Minister Theresa May during their meeting in Brussels, Belgium. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker [right] shakes hands with British Prime Minister Theresa May during their meeting in Brussels, Belgium. The next 72 hours are crucial in Brexit negotiations between Britain and the European Union (EU), Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons Thursday. XINHUA PHOTOS - YE PINGFAN

Northern Ireland politicians could threaten British
Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- The leader of the Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) told its annual conference in Belfast Saturday that the party remained opposed to British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

Arlene Foster was speaking as May headed to Brussels ahead of the expected signing of an agreement Sunday between Britain and the European Union (EU) on a future relationship after Brexit.

May’s minority Conservative government at Westminster relies on the support of the 10 DUP MPs to give it a majority in the House of Commons. The loss of those vital 10 votes will cause a major headache for May when the deal is debated by MPs next month.

Addressing the conference, Foster said the DUP could not support a Brexit deal that would open the possibility of divergence in either customs or regulatory measures between the British mainland and Northern Ireland.

Foster told the conference the Brexit deal was not in the national interest and would cause long-term economic damage to Northern Ireland.

As part of the deal, a so-called backstop arrangement has been included that could see an option of Northern Ireland keeping some EU customs regulations for a short time after the end of an implementation period due to end in December 2020.

It would mean different rules applying in mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, though May insists it will not be used.

The backstop would only be needed if a solution has not been agreed to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

Ahead of the conference, Foster warned May she risks losing the support of the DUP support if she presses ahead with her current Brexit deal.

In a media interview in Belfast, Foster called on the Prime Minister to ditch the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement or face the end of the Westminster pact between the DUP and the Conservatives.

Foster told Radio Ulster’s Inside Politics if the deal is not going to deliver on Brexit, the DUP would have to look at the confidence and supply agreement between the two parties.

In a speech at the DUP conference Saturday, former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told delegates Britain is on the verge of making a historic mistake if it does not scrap the backstop.

It could risk tearing apart the fabric of the United Kingdom, Johnson warned.

He said Northern Ireland faced being reduced to the status of a semi-colony of the EU if the Brexit deal is ratified by the British parliament.

He called DUP MPs at Westminster to work with him and the many Conservative backbenchers who have pledged to vote down May’s deal next month.

In what the Daily Telegraph described as a rousing speech to the DUP conference, Johnson said the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement conjured up images of famous ocean liner Titanic heading off to sea, adding: "now is the time to point out the iceberg ahead."

The ill-fated Titanic was built in Belfast and sank on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic in 1912.


Spain agrees to support Brexit deal after reaching agreement over Gibraltar

MADRID Spain (Xinhua) -- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that his government had reached an agreement over the future of Gibraltar.

This means Sunday’s meeting in Brussels in which European Union (EU) leaders are expected to give their support to the Brexit agreement that would see the UK leave the EU on March 29, 2019, will go ahead as planned.

Spain had threatened to veto the Brexit agreement over what it considered to be a lack of assurances of its future relationship with Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory situated on the southwest tip of the Spanish mainland.

However, following a reported phone conversation with European Council President Donald Tusk, Sanchez confirmed he would both attend the meeting and support the Brexit deal.

"We have reached an agreement and we will vote in favor of the Brexit," said Sanchez in a declaration made from his official residence at the Palacio de la Moncloa.

"Spain has achieved a historic agreement which would definitively resolve the future of Gibraltar with the United Kingdom in the coming years," said the prime minister.

"Once the UK retires (from the EU), Gibraltar’s relationship with the EU will be though Spain," said Sanchez, adding that this decision guaranteed the "national interest, joint prosperity and Spain’s key role in the future relationship."

Gibraltar was ceded to the UK in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht which ended the War of Spanish Succession and has belonged to the UK ever since, much to Spain’s frustration and restoring the ‘Rock’ to Spanish sovereignty is a matter of national pride to many Spaniards.

Nevertheless, 98 percent of the population of Gibraltar voted in 2002 against shared sovereignty between the UK and Spain, while 96 of Gibraltarians voted against the Brexit in the June 2016 referendum in which the UK voted to leave the EU by a narrow margin of 51.89 percent to 48.11 percent.


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