A senior DUP figure has warned that the UK is hurtling towards a no deal Brexit, pinning the blame on the Irish Republic for its hard-line stance on the backstop.
Sir Jeffery Donaldson also stressed that the UK leaving the European Union without a deal in place would see the Republic’s economy pay a heavy price.
The Lagan Valley MP’s remarks came after Irish deputy prime minister Simon Coveney rejected a time-limited backstop or a backstop that could be ended unilaterally by the UK.
The backstop is designed to ensure there is no hard border on the island of Ireland if the UK and EU fail to reach a broader trade deal.
In a phone conversation with the Irish taoiseach on Monday, Prime Minister Theresa May said any agreement would have to include a review mechanism to bring an end to the backstop.
But Mr Coveney tweeted: “These ideas are not backstops at all and don’t deliver on previous UK commitments.”
In response, Sir Jeffrey said Dublin’s stance was making a no-deal Brexit likely.
“Looks like we’re heading for no deal,” he tweeted today.
“Such an outcome will have serious consequences for the economy of the Republic. In addition, the UK won’t have to pay a penny more to the EU, which means big increase for Dublin.
“Can’t understand why Irish Government seems so intent on this course.”
His party colleague, Jim Shannon MP said it was time for the Republic to “get real or face having to pay the price”.
He told the News Letter: “If Dublin wants to play hard ball, then they need to be prepared to put in place the new security arrangements across the border.
“It will be them introducing border controls, not the UK, and there will be a cost.
“Every time sensible proposals are put forward, they shoot them down. It is about time they caught themselves on and stopped showboating.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Mrs May on Monday that he was ready to consider a review mechanism as part of a backstop arrangement to keep the border with Northern Ireland open after Brexit.
But he made clear that he would not accept an arrangement which gave the UK unilateral powers to ditch the customs union without the agreement of Brussels.
Mrs May is understood to view the mechanism as a means of allaying the concerns of Conservative and DUP MPs, who want guarantees that any future membership of a customs union is temporary.
Speaking to the News Letter on Monday, DUP Brexit spokesperson Sammy Wilson said his party would not support “any mechanism that gives a veto to the EU or the Irish”, adding: “We could be stuck with this arrangement forever, this eternal backstop.”
He also warned that if Mr Varadkar continues with his hard-line approach, he will ensure there is no deal agreed in the House of Commons, adding: “The Irish republic will live with the consequences of that.”