January 20, 2019 / 10:18 PM / a month ago

May considering amending Good Friday deal to break Brexit impasse - Daily Telegraph

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves church, near High Wycombe, Britain, January 20, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

(Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May is considering solving a Brexit deadlock by amending a 1998 agreement that ended 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland after ditching attempts to negotiate a cross-party deal, the Daily Telegraph reported late on Sunday.

May’s plan to amend the 1998 Good Friday Agreement would see the UK and Ireland agree a separate set of principles or add text to “support or reference” the 1998 peace deal setting out how both sides would guarantee an open border after Brexit, the newspaper reported.

May suffered a heavy defeat in parliament on Tuesday when lawmakers and members of other parties rejected her deal for Britain’s with the European Union by an overwhelming majority. Many object to a backstop arrangement that the European Union insists on as a guarantee to avoid a hard border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement that largely ended years of violence between Irish republicans and pro-British unionists, border posts were removed and the province was given a power-sharing structure where both communities were represented.

According to The Daily Telegraph, senior EU sources have called May’s new plan a non-starter while British government sources are “sceptical” that it would work, as the plan is likely to prove controversial and would require the consent of all the parties involved in Northern Ireland.

Neale Richmond, a member of Ireland’s governing Fine Gael party and chairman of the upper house of parliament’s Brexit committee, said the Good Friday Agreement cannot be renegotiated lightly.

“The #GFA is an international peace treaty, lodged with the @UN - it also has a mandate of 94% in Ireland and 71% in Northern Ireland. Not something that can be renegotiated lightly or easily to meet #Brexit whims”, he tweeted.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reported that plans to seek a bilateral treaty with the Irish government as a way to remove the contentious backstop arrangement.

Sky News reported that May is expected to set out plans to try and remove the Irish backstop, in an effort to win around the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party.

Reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru; Editing by Susan Thomas

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