Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said that the controversial Northern Ireland backstop plan must be ditched if Prime Minister Theresa May wants to extend the United Kingdom’s Brexit transition period.

The UK is set to leave the European Union on March 29 2019, this will be followed by a transition period until the end of 2020.

Prime Minister Theresa May indicated last week she would be open to extending the transition period.

Speaking on Thursday morning Mrs May said she would consider extending the Brexit transition period by a “matter of months” in order to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph Mr Raab said that if the transition period was to be extended it would have to be instead of the backstop, intended to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

However, the European Union and Irish government have insisted that the backstop must be part of any withdrawal agreement.

“The Prime Minister has rightly refused to rule out considering different approaches – including extending the implementation period, as an alternative to the backstop,” Mr Raab wrote.

“But we won’t sacrifice Northern Ireland, and we must have finality to any backstop – whether through a time limit or a mechanism that enables the UK to leave, in case the EU doesn’t live up to its promise to get the future relationship in place swiftly.”

It was reported last week that Mrs May had told Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in a Brussels meeting that she was committed to a permanent backstop in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The backstop is an insurance policy which would keep Northern Ireland in the European Union’s customs union and single market in the event of negotiations breaking down. It has been contested and is the major barrier to agreement.

The DUP have strongly opposed any backstop agreement which would separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the European Union.

Mrs May’s Conservative Government relies on the support of DUP MPs to pass key legislation through a confidence and supply agreement between the parties. 

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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