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The Irish government is 'driving us all' towards a no-deal Brexit, says DUP's Jeffrey Donaldson

In speech in Dublin, Donaldson re-iterated his party’s opposition to the backstop.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

DUP MP JEFFREY Donaldson has accused the Irish government of “driving us all” towards a no-deal Brexit. 

Speaking this evening in Dublin at an event organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs, Donaldson said that Leo Varadkar is the “first Irish Taoiseach to subcontract Northern Ireland policy to the EU”. 

“Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney knew from an early stage that the border was sensitive but they viewed that not as a delicate matter where consensus was needed but rather as a bargaining chip which could be used by Brussels,” Donaldson said. 

“At a time when cool heads were needed in Brussels, Leo Varadkar was photocopying articles from the Irish Times about a 1972 Provisional IRA bombing of a customs post,” he added.

Donaldson was referring to Varadkar’s use of a recent Irish Times story about a customs post bombing in 1972, which he presented to EU leaders in Brussels in 2018.

The DUP supported Brexit and following the 2017 UK general election entered a confidence and supply agreement to support the Conservative government. However, the party has been fiercely opposed to the inclusion of a backstop in any deal agreed between the UK  and the EU. 

“If we are to lay a foundation which the next generation, both north and south can build upon, then we must recognise, before it is too late, that there is a seismic problem with the backstop,” Donaldson said this evening. 

DUP criticism

This isn’t the first time Varadkar and the Irish government have been on the receiving end of DUP criticism. During the Brexit negotiations, the relationship between the Irish government and the DUP has often been testy – in January 2018 DUP MP Sammy Wilson was forced to row back on comments calling Varadkar a “nutcase”

Donaldson didn’t mention outgoing UK prime minister Theresa May or any of the candidates currently vying to succeed her.

Boris Johnson – who secured a comfortable lead in the first round of the Tory leadership contest today – gave a speech at the party’s conference in 2018, while Michael Gove, who placed third behind Jeremy Hunt, has been outspoken in the past about his opposition to the Good Friday Agreement. 

Whoever is appointed as the next British prime minister will need to win the DUP’s support to secure a parliamentary majority.

In recent weeks, Irish politicians have expressed concern that a no-deal Brexit – which would see the UK leave the EU on 31 October 2019 without a deal in place – is increasingly likely following Theresa May’s resignation as Tory leader.

Donaldson called for all sides to work together to reach a “sensible and sustainable” Brexit deal. “In supporting Brexit, we did not seek to undermine the existing agreements that underpin the peace process or to create a so-called hard border on the island,” Donaldson told the Dublin audience 

“I often think that some of those who make that claim are playing on the genuine fears of people who live along the border and who rely on cross border travel to go about their daily business.”

In a statement following tonight’s talk, Labour leader Brendan Howlin said the DUP “had some reflection” to do.  

“Northern Ireland did not vote to leave the European Union, and pro-EU sentiment was visible in the recent European election result. No amount of DUP positioning will hide its failure to represent the will of the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.

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