Irish premier ‘politicking’ over Brexit border issue

Taoiseach Leo Varadakar (left) and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney. Mr Coveny has called for joint Dublin-UK authority over Northern Ireland if powersharing talks fail.
Taoiseach Leo Varadakar (left) and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney. Mr Coveny has called for joint Dublin-UK authority over Northern Ireland if powersharing talks fail.

The DUP has accused the Irish government of “pure politicking”, after its latest intervention in the Brexit border issue.

The party’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds said claims that the Republic wanted to make the Irish Sea into a de facto Brexit border with the UK was the latest in a string of “inconsistent and incoherent statements” coming out of Dublin.

Highlighting the Irish government’s demand for special status for Northern Ireland, coupled with the Republic’s support for Sinn Fein’s demands on Irish language supremacy in the Province, the North Belfast MP asked: “Just what is going on in Dublin?”

In a hard-hitting statement, the senior DUP figure claimed that “confusion seems to be the order of the day” in the Dublin government since the departure of former taoiseach Enda Kenny and Irish foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan last month.

Criticising Mr Varadkar’s comments on the Brexit border issue, Mr Dodds said: “Statements are made and then reversed, sending mixed messages.

“It’s simply taking things backwards at a time when common sense co-operation between our two countries and between the Republic and NI is what’s needed.”

He added: “All of this can hardly be put down to inexperience.

“Rather, it seems to be deliberate positioning by the new team at the helm in Dublin in preparation and positioning for a coming general election.”

TUV leader Jim Allister also took aim at the Dublin government, stating that politicians in the Republic “need to stop huffing” when it comes to Brexit.

A political storm erupted on Friday, when it was reported that the Dublin government aimed to make the Irish Sea into a de facto Brexit border with the UK, with customs and immigration checks to be located away from the land border and at ports and airports instead.

The suggestion drew ire from both the main unionist parties in the Province.

As controversy over the idea raged, the taoiseach appeared to move to quash the row, saying: “What we’re not going to do is to design a border for the Brexiteers because they’re the ones who want a border.

“As far as this government is concerned there shouldn’t be an economic border. We don’t want one.”

Criticising the taoiseach’s position on the Brexit border issue, Mr Dodds added: “There already is an economic border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

“For instance, does he not realise that every time you cross the border you need to change currency?

“Or that each jurisdiction is subject to entirely different taxation and financial regimes?”

The News Letter contacted the Irish government for a response to the remarks made by Mr Dodds, but we received no reply at the time of going to press.

TUV leader Jim Allister also hit out at the Dublin government, stating that politicians in the Republic “need to decouple their nationalist agenda from the Brexit negotiations if they want a sensible outcome”.

He added: “Thinking they can pull a fast one by demanding the removal of the border to the Irish Sea is as futile as it is green politicking.

“There are no circumstances in which a border can exist between integral parts of the United Kingdom.

“Mr Varadkar needs to grow up and abandon his childish ‘I’m not playing’ stance or his UK-dependent country will be the biggest loser.

“Of course, the best solution for the Republic is itself to leave the EU and seek to be part of a British Isles trading block, but that is a matter in the first instance for them.

“We have made our choice. We are leaving the EU and Dublin needs to face that reality.”