British FM asks EU leaders for Brexit compromise to protect Irish peace
The foreign secretary made the remarks before traveling to France and Poland for talks with ministers, raising the threat of a no-deal Brexit or "Brexit paralysis" if the EU and Britain were unable to strike a deal.
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jeremy Hunt arrives for a weekly Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in central London on 05 February, 2019. [Photo: IC]
The EU was steadfastly refusing to budge on the Northern Ireland "backstop," and the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up the current British government, was adamant that it must be axed or changed, or else they will not back the Withdrawal Agreement.
"No one who grew up with bombs every week in Northern Ireland but also in Harrods, Hyde Park and throughout the UK could ever countenance taking a risk with peace, and nor will we," Hunt said.
"But the best way to secure that peace is to do a Brexit deal that secures friendly relations between the UK and its neighbors," Hunt said. "And that means sensible compromise on all sides."
Hunt's remarks echoed statements in recent weeks by several high-profile political figures, including former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who have warned of a potential return to violence in Northern Ireland if a hard border is installed in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Also on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May pleaded with members of parliament to give her more time to secure a revised Brexit deal amid warnings from Brussels that the EU is still waiting for her to come up with a viable plan.
She promised to update members of parliament again on Feb. 26 and, if she had not got a new deal by then, to give them a say on the next steps in non-binding votes.
The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, on Monday insisted there was no question of Brussels giving in to Downing Street's demands on the Irish "backstop."
"We're waiting for clarity and movement from the United Kingdom," Barnier told reporters after talks in Luxembourg with the country's Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel.
Theresa May said in Parliament that she was discussing a number of options with the EU to secure legally-binding changes to the "backstop": replacing it with "alternative arrangements;" putting a time limit on how long it can stay in place; or a unilateral exit clause so the UK can leave at a time of its choosing.
The backstop" arrangement is the "insurance" policy in May's deal to avoid a return to border checks on the island of Ireland.