Gregory Campbell has rejected Irish deputy premier Simon Coveney’s assertion that Dublin is not attempting to interfere in the affairs of Northern Ireland.
The DUP MP’s remarks came just hours before he joined his party leader Arlene Foster for a meeting with Mr Coveney at Stormont today, with the discussion centring on the controversial Irish border backstop arrangements.
Speaking ahead of a day of engagements in Belfast involving meetings with business and political leaders, Mr Coveney denied meddling in UK politics, insisting he has an obligation to challenge those “misrepresenting” what the Brexit deal contains.
The Irish foreign minister said he does not have an anti-British bone in his body and wants to be a “candid friend” to the Republic’s closest neighbour.
But East Londonderry MP Mr Campbell accused the Irish Government of being a major impediment to the Brexit process, claiming Dublin had been responsible for creating the “mythical monster” of the backstop.
“Having now created that monster, they find that their own country is going to be the biggest loser if the backstop is implemented,” he added.
Relations between the Irish Government and the DUP have frayed during the Brexit process, with the party accusing the Dublin administration of scaremongering over the threat of a hard border.
Mr Coveney has been critical of Brexiteers who have claimed the backstop would undermine the constitutional integrity of the UK and bring a united Ireland a step closer by creating barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
The DUP’s East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has portrayed the border backstop as a “confidence trick” played by the Irish Government.
Mr Coveney suggested that the views of ardent Brexiteer Mr Wilson were not reflective of broader unionism, highlighting the concerns raised by the farming community in Northern Ireland about the prospect of a no deal.
“We may not be convincing Sammy Wilson but that is not the same as not convincing unionism,” he said.
“I listen to farmers’ organisations in Northern Ireland make it very clear today that a no-deal Brexit needs to be avoided, yet I hear Sammy saying that a no-deal Brexit is something that can be managed.”
In response, Mr Campbell urged Mr Coveney to “get off his high horse and get some humility”.
He told the News Letter: “He says he is not meddling, yet in the same breath he attempts to give an assessment as to who does or does not speak for the majority of unionists. He might want to try and reconcile those two things.
“Can he find a section of political unionism that is backing this withdrawal deal? Yet he still protests that those who oppose this deal don’t speak for unionism.
“Can you imagine how Mr Coveney and others would react if I was to say that the upcoming election in the Republic will show that Fine Gael do not speak for nationalism?”