DUP firm on NI’s place as fevered talks go on

Diane Dodds
Diane Dodds

Amid a flurry of late night activity aimed at sealing a deal on the border, the DUP has re-stated its pledge to both reject a “hard border” and defend the Province’s place in the UK.

It is believed that the DUP had last night received a fresh set of text as part of the negotiations around what a post-Brexit Irish border might look like, after having essentially vetoed an earlier effort by the UK government to agree the terms of a deal on Monday.

However the only thing DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson would say last night when pressed was simply that “discussions are ongoing”.

The most substantive statement from the DUP came at dinnertime yesterday via Diane Dodds, who complained Sinn Fein have been trying to misrepresent the party’s position.

The DUP she said, are against any kind of hard border, but will also strive to “ensure the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK is maintained”.

European Council president Donald Tusk is expected to make a statement on Brexit this morning at 6.50am GMT.

Margaritis Schinas, the EU Commission’s top spokesman said last night: “We are making progress but not yet fully there. Talks are continuing throughout the night.”

Earlier in the day Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney had declared he wants the “core” parts of Monday’s rejected deal to form the basis of any new one.

Regarding progress in the talks, yesterday evening a UK government source said: “We’re not there yet.”

European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker last night spoke to both Theresa May and Leo Varadkar, whilst RTE reported that a “senior source” had said “several phone calls” were made between Leo Varadkar and Theresa May.

Various media, including The Guardian and Bloomberg, were reporting that Theresa May is poised to travel to Brussels very early this morning.

Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader Michelle O’Neill said she too had been in contact with Mrs May, telling her the DUP are “turning their face towards a hard border”, and adding that they “do not represent the views of the people of the north”.

The DUP’s Diane Dodds, one of the Province’s three MEPs, said: “The DUP has been absolutely clear and consistent.

“We do not wish to see a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

“In pursuance of that objective however it is completely unacceptable to place such a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”

She added: “Unfortunately we have some who appear to revel in the prospect of failure.

“That is not the DUP’s position and we will continue to ensure the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK is maintained and that movement of people and that we do not see a return to the borders of the past with the Republic of Ireland.

“Sinn Fein deliberately mislead people about the DUP’s position.

“Of course Sinn Fein know well that the hard border of the past existed to stop semtex and not powdered milk.”

Meanwhile SDLP leader Colum Eastwood demanded that since the DUP is being consulted about a possible Brexit deal, “all of us must see the detail of the agreed the negotiating position” as well.