Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald warns UK that Irish people would not take no-deal Brexit 'on the chin'
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Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald warns UK that Irish people would not take no-deal Brexit 'on the chin'

SINN Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has warned the British Government that Irish people will demand a united Ireland in the "disastrous" event of a no-deal Brexit.

Speaking during several UK media appearances this morning, the Dublin TD accused British Prime Minister Theresa May of acting "in bad faith" and playing "a game of chicken" with Irish interests in her negotiations for a Withdrawal Agreement.

Ms McDonald told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that people across the island of Ireland would not take a no-deal Brexit "on the chin" and "absorb" the chaos it may cause.

"Brexit threatens to sunder the entire constitutional and political framework that accommodates the current stability and beds down the peace process," she said.

"If there is a crash, do not imagine for a second that people on the island of Ireland will simply take that on the chin and absorb all of the damage that will entail."

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Ms McDonald said it would be "utterly reckless" for Westminster to "knowingly and cynically destabilize peace in Northern Ireland" by renegotiating or scrapping the backstop, a legal clause in her Brexit deal which averts a hard border on the island of Ireland.

She added: "The British government has played a game of chicken with Irish interests, they’re running down the clock.

"Brexit threatens to sunder the entire constitutional and political framework that accommodates the current stability and beds-down the peace process.

"People across Ireland have an appetite for progress and should be given the opportunity to decide their own future through a unity referendum."

In a separate appearance on ITV's Good Morning Britain, McDonald defended Sinn Féin's refusal to take its seven seats in Wesminster - an absensionist policy which dates back to the party's inception in 1905.

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"We have no business in your parliament... I’ve watched the sometimes very strange and exotic antics at Westminster throughout this whole Brexit process," she said.

"I am not convinced, and you won’t convince me, that by being in the middle of the melee we would be well positioned to protect Irish interests. I would not accept that."

McDonald explained that Sinn Féin instead influences the Brexit debate through the European Union, and that she and deputy Michelle O'Neill have met with EU negotiator Michel Barnier in relation to the Irish border and the backstop.

She added that "as an observer" she viewed the Brexit debate in the House of Commons as having largely been "about England" and "English interests" from the first instance, to the detriment of other issues.

There are less than 50 days to go until the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, and the impasse over the backstop has undoutedly become the key sticking point in the ongoing tug-of-war between the pair.

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In recent days the EU has reiterated that the backstop issue is not up for renegotiation, after the Commons voted overwhelmingly to reject Mrs May's Withdrawal Agreement last month.

On Tuesday, the PM revealed that another series of Brexit options will be voted on by MPs if there is no breakthrough on the backstop by February 26.

Speaking during yet another media appearance this morning, Ms McDonald told Sky News that her party would not accept any "physical infrastructure" on the Irish border.

"There won't be. Because that is entirely intolerable and unacceptable," she said.

"Only the most reckless of people would even consider that... Mrs May and the Tory government have no plan."