MPs are preparing to vote on whether to back or reject Theresa May’s deal for leaving the European Union.
The so-called “meaningful vote” will take place around 7pm tonight as five days of debate on Brexit come to an end. Mrs May has called for politicians to back her deal or risk letting the British people down. But with many of her own MPs expected to join opposition parties to vote against the deal, it is widely expected to be defeated.
MPs will also be able to suggest amendments that could reshape the deal before voting commences this evening.
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD has said the EU backstop cannot be set aside or diluted.
Speaking from Stormont after she and Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill met leaders of the north’s main political parties, Mary Lou McDonald said: "Whatever transpires at Westminster it is essential that Irish interests are protected; that the economy is protected and that the Good Friday Agreement is protected in all its parts.
"We have commitments from our partners at an EU level that the needs of this island north and south have been recognised and will be protected. Sinn Féin expects those commitments to be honoured and that is what we have been making clear to the Irish government and the EU.
"There is no such thing as a good Brexit but the backstop is the bottom line. Anyone who imagines that can be unpicked or diluted or set aside isn't dealing with the political realities. The DUP position on Brexit is reckless and irresponsible. It certainly is not in the interests of the people of the north of Ireland. I would urge all political leaders to act in the interests of workers, of communities, of society and political stability.”
DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds said that Mrs May should ask for and deliver changes to a Withdrawal Agreement. Despite a letter of supposed reassurance from the EU, he said there are “no legally binding assurances” as the Prime Minister talked about in December.
“In fact, there is nothing new, nothing has changed,” he said. “Rather than reassure us, the Tusk and Juncker letter bolsters our concerns by confirming that everything the Attorney General said in his legal advice regarding the backstop, still stands, there has been no change to the Withdrawal Agreement and Northern Ireland would be subject to EU laws with no representation in Brussels. We would rely on the Dublin government to speak up for us. I stead of meaningless letters, the Prime Minister should now ask for and deliver changes to the Withdrawal Agreement.”