30th January 2019
The Irish backstop, far from preventing a hard border post-Brexit, will create one if not amended, Conservative MEPs' leader Ashley Fox warned the European Parliament this afternoon.
Speaking in a set piece debate to discuss last night's votes in Westminster, Mr Fox urged the European Union to engage constructively with the Prime Minister to amend the Withdrawal Agreement and secure the approval of MPs. He said: "There is now a clearer road ahead – if we choose to take it.
"My government and the House of Commons want to leave the EU in an orderly manner and with a deal. And to achieve that we need to amend how the Protocol on Northern Ireland operates.
"We must do all we can to support the Good Friday Agreement. But it is a paradox that the backstop, whose purpose is to avoid a hard border, may – in just 58 days time – be the cause of creating such a hard border on the island of Ireland.
"It is simply not good enough to repeat ad nauseam that the deal cannot be amended. That leads to no deal. And that leads, as the Commission confirmed last week, to a hard border."
Mr Fox pointed out that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said last week that in the event of a no deal the bloc would find an alternative "operational way to carry out checks and controls without putting back in place a border."
He added: "Let us look at that now. Let us consider whether time limits and exit mechanisms offer a solution. Let us proceed with goodwill, remembering that flexibility and generosity are not signs of weakness but of strength.
"At stake is the future partnership between the EU and the UK. Let us ensure that we can construct a long term relationship to promote our common values and our shared interests in an uncertain world.
"Let us find a way to move forward together."