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John Bruton: 'We have to do everything we can to stop Brexit from happening'

The former Taoiseach was critical of the DUP, saying that Foster and colleagues had only talked about Brexit in “platitudes”.

John Bruton was critical of the UK government and the DUP's approach to Brexit.
John Bruton was critical of the UK government and the DUP's approach to Brexit.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/

FORMER TAOISEACH JOHN Bruton has said that the UK government and the DUP need to set their stall out for what kind of border they want with Ireland, and accused Arlene Foster’s party of talking in “platitudes” on the issue.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Bruton said that the British “haven’t come forward with their own ideas” on issues such as borders or remaining in the customs union after it leaves the EU.

He added that it wasn’t necessarily important where the border is, but “what sort of border it is or if we can avoid having a border” were the questions we should ask.

The former Fine Gael leader said that while it looked likely that Brexit would now happen, “we have to do everything we can to stop it happening, if we can”.

“Really, it is the English,” he said. “They have to change their opinion. They have initiated Brexit. The opinion in Northern Ireland was against Brexit, and the opinion in Scotland was against Brexit. That has been overruled.”

Reacting to recent comments from DUP leader Arlene Foster criticising the Irish government’s stance on border issues, Bruton said that her party should be more forthcoming with its own Brexit ideas.

He said: “Some hard questions have to be asked. What sort of Brexit do they want? Do they want the UK in the customs union? What sort of agricultural policy do they want, because that will be very important at the border?

The DUP is very influential now in Westminster, particularly in the absence of Sinn Féin… The DUP needs to be prepared to say which option for Brexit it would choose. So far, they’ve just talked in platitudes.

“Not going to help the UK come up with a border solution”

DUP leader Arlene Foster had said that the Taoiseach’s comments about the post-Brexit Irish border were “unhelpful”.

Last week, Varadkar spoke strongly on Ireland’s position, saying that ”we’re not going to help the UK come up with a border solution”.

“Currently there is no economic border. There hasn’t been an economic border since 1992. As far as this government is concerned there shouldn’t be an economic border. We don’t want one,” he said.

It’s the United Kingdom, it’s Britain that has decided to leave and if they want to put forward smart solutions, technological solutions for borders of the future and all of that that’s up to them.

Varadkar went on to say that the government’s position is that there should be no border, so it will not help in designing one.

We do not think it is in the interests of our country. We do not think it’s in the interests of Northern Ireland or the United Kingdom that there should be an economic border between our two countries or on our island and we’re not going to be helping them to design some sort of border that we don’t believe should exist in the first place.

“So let them put forward their proposals as to how they think a border should operate and then we’ll ask them if they really think this is such a good idea because I think it will have a very severe impact on their economy if they decide to go down that route.”

Arlene Foster, however, said that Varadkar remaining “hopeful” that Brexit wouldn’t happen was “disrespecting” the wishes of the British people.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, meanwhile, has said that Varadkar’s position is “total nonsense”, accusing Varadkar of sparking a series of “inconsistent and incoherent statements”, and “sending mixed messages” on Brexit.

With reporting from Paul Hosford

Read: ‘We’re not going to help the UK come up with a border solution’ – Varadkar

Read: Taoiseach says politicians should settle their Dáil bar tab or have it taken from their salaries

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Sean Murray

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