Theresa May says Good Friday Agreement will not be reopened

Theresa May says Good Friday Agreement will not be reopened
British Prime Minister Theresa May making a statement to MPs in the House of Commons today. Photo: PA

British Prime Minister Theresa May has told the House of Commons that the government will not reopen the Good Friday Agreement.

In her Plan B statement today, Mrs May said that she will hold further discussions on the Irish backstop this week with MPs, including the DUP.

She said the talks will consider "how we might meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland in a way that can command the greatest possible support in the House".

Those conclusions will then be brought to the EU, she said.

She offered a guarantee that workers’ rights and environmental safeguards would not be eroded as a result of Brexit and scrapped the £65 fee for EU nationals wishing to remain in the UK with “settled status”.

Mrs May dismissed calls for a second Brexit referendum, the so-called People’s Vote, saying that the British government's "duty is to implement the decision of the first one".

"I fear a second referendum would set a difficult precedent that could have significant implications for how we handle referendums in this country," she said.

“Not least, strengthening the hand of those campaigning to break-up our United Kingdom.

“It would require an extension of Article 50. We would very likely have to return a new set of MEPs to the European Parliament in May.

And I also believe that there has not yet been enough recognition of the way that a second referendum could damage social cohesion by undermining faith in our democracy.

She refused to take a “no deal” Brexit off the table, saying the only way to do this was either to agree a deal or to revoke the Article 50 withdrawal process, which she was not willing to do.

Mrs May was addressing MPs after holding cross-party talks in the wake of the overwhelming rejection of her Withdrawal Agreement by the Commons last week.

Insisting the Government approached the talks “in a constructive spirit”, Mrs May said she regretted Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to boycott them.

But Mr Corbyn dismissed the talks as “phoney”, telling MPs: “The Prime Minister must change her red lines, because her current deal is undeliverable.”

Spelling out the approach she plans to take to negotiations on post-Brexit relations between the UK and EU, Mrs May said: “It is my responsibility to listen to the legitimate concerns of colleagues, both those who voted Leave and who voted Remain, in shaping our negotiating mandate for our future partnership with the EU.

“So the Government will consult this House on its negotiating mandate, to ensure that Members have the chance to make their views known, and that we harness the knowledge of all select committees, across the full range of expertise needed for this next phase negotiations – from security to trade.

“This will also strengthen the Government’s hand in the negotiations, giving the EU confidence about our position and avoiding leaving the bulk of Parliamentary debate to a point when we are under huge time pressure to ratify.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

PA & Digital Desk

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