Downing Street denies Theresa May planning changes to Good Friday Agreement to save Brexit deal

Posted On: 
21st January 2019

Downing Street has denied reports that Theresa May is considering rewriting the historic Good Friday Agreement in a fresh bid to save her Brexit deal.

The Telegraph reports that the Prime Minister is considering amending the 1998 agreement as part of efforts to sideline the controversial Northern Ireland backstop, which would effectively lock the UK into the EU's customs union if no plan to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland could be found.

The Prime Minister was swiftly accused of "playing a dangerous game" by anti-Brexit campaigners.

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But Number 10 sources this morning moved quickly to insist Mrs May has no intention of seeking to re-open the Good Friday Agreement, which was negotiated by Tony Blair's government.

The report came as Mrs May told Cabinet ministers she would push EU leaders for fresh changes to the backstop in what one Cabinet source called a "one more heave" strategy as cross-party talks aimed at breaking the Brexit deadlock stalled.

According to the Telegraph, ministers believe that inserting text into the agreement - which is widely credited with helping to ensure peace in Northern Ireland over the past two decades - could help reassure Ireland that the backstop is not needed.

The paper reports that the two sides could add text to "support or reference" the 1998 agreement to guarantee an open border Brexit, with a source saying the move could "reinforce trust with the Irish to give them something more tangible so we can stick to our commitments".

Such a plan would require the consent of all parties involved in Northern Ireland.

Former shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith, a supporter of the Best for Britain campaign, warned: "The Prime Minister is playing a dangerous game.

"It’s clear she values keeping herself in a job over the bedrock of peace in Northern Ireland. That’s shameless and doesn’t respect the office she represents.

"If the Prime Minister is planning on recklessly toying with the Good Friday Agreement, it’s all the more reason to take Brexit out of her hands and put it back to the public."