Simon Coveney has insisted the Republic of Ireland will not allow the renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement

Irish ‘will hold UK to its word’ on Brexit

There is “no magic solution” to the Irish border issue, said Simon Coveney

The Republic of Ireland will not approach the Brexit negotiations on the “basis of threats”, the Tánaiste (Irish deputy prime minister) has said.

Simon Coveney said Tuesday’s vote in London in favour of alternative arrangements to the backstop was “disappointing”.

It is an insurance policy in the Brexit deal that aims to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

It is “wishful thinking” to ask the EU to reopen the deal, Mr Coveney said.

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‘Jumping out the window’

He insisted the Irish government would not allow any renegotiation of the backstop, and said that up until three days ago, Prime Minister Theresa May had been a “defender of the backstop”.

“There is a wing in the Tory party, who in my view, want a different Brexit and she is having to accommodate those people by taking a tougher line and fundamentally undermining her own position,” Mr Coveney told Irish broadcaster RTÉ.

“Surely the responsible thing for the Irish government to do is to hold the British government to its word.”

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney has insisted the Republic of Ireland will not allow the renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement

He also likened the current approach from the UK as “either you give me what I want or I’m jumping out the window”.

The Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is due to speak to Mrs May on Wednesday about the outcome of the Commons vote.

His government has insisted that the backstop is a crucial part of the withdrawal agreement and must remain intact.

Mrs May has said that, after taking the votes into account and talking to the EU, her revised deal will be brought back to the Commons “as soon as possible” for a second “meaningful vote”.

Reality Check unpacks the basics of the backstop.

What have other EU leaders said?

Various EU leaders have suggested there will be no revisions to the deal with European Council President Donald Tusk saying: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement, and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.”

French President Emmanuel Macron also said the agreement was “not renegotiable”.

Mr Tusk added the EU would, however, be willing to look at the political declaration again – the part of the deal that makes a pledge on the future relationship between the UK and the EU – and that the EU would “stand ready” to consider any “reasoned request” for an extension to the leave date of 29 March.

BBC Europe editor Katya Adler said there were “no cracks” in EU unity, with its leaders united with Ireland and they do not want to “give up” the backstop.

BBC News NI’s political reporter Jayne McCormack explains why the border is an issue

The UK government agreed to a backstop in the draft withdrawal deal with the EU in November 2018 that would take effect at the end of the transition period in December 2020.

Those who reject the backstop fear it will not just be a temporary measure if no future trade deal is agreed, but could result in the UK staying in the customs unions with the EU.

‘Reneged’ on agreement

Having backed Sir Graham Brady’s amendment on Tuesday, the Conservative Party was accused of “ripping up” the Good Friday Agreement.

It was signed in 1998, ending decades of violence in Northern Ireland, and allowed the removal of security checks along the Irish border.

The Scottish Nationalist Party’s leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, said the result showed MPs had “reneged on the backstop” and the peace deal.

However, this was refuted by Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said Mr Blackford’s comments were “reckless” and that his party would work with Theresa May to “deliver the right thing to the UK”.

He urged Mrs May to “go back (to Brussels) and do what she said she would do in the House of Commons”.

Reaction to amendment vote

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said negotiations “should not re-open”.

“Hopefully the Irish government and the EU will stand firm in protecting the people of Northern Ireland,” he told the BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme.

He added that a deal with no backstop would result in a hard border, “and we cannot accept that as that will only roll back the progress we have made over the last 20 years”.

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said Tuesday’s vote was both “remarkable and farcical”.

He added that Theresa May had become “the chief saboteur” of the deal she agreed with the EU negotiators.

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