Foster’s response to Varadkar sets the right tone

Morning View
Morning View

Leo Varadkar told an event in Washington DC on Tuesday:

“I recognise that recent statements and actions by Irish nationalists, including the Irish government, about Brexit have been seen as unwelcome or intrusive. If that is the case, I want to make it clear that it certainly was not our intention. I want to repeat that we have no hidden agenda.”

The Taoiseach also said: “It may be that again the governments will have to table our own proposals to help the parties break the deadlock.”

Mr Varadkar is right that his government’s actions have been seen as unwelcome and intrusive. In fact, they have been unwelcome and intrusive, not merely “seen” as such.

He says that Dublin has no “hidden agenda”. That too is true. The Irish government’s actions have been as clear as can be.

They have been fully in tandem with the European Union in trying to make things difficult for the UK unless there is regulatory and customs convergence. This is not merely unhelpful, but as Jacob Rees-Mogg MP wrote on these pages recently “the presumption of Brussels in even proposing [a border in the Irish Sea] is an unfriendly act”.

Now, after in effect helping Sinn Fein for months via actions such as Simon Coveney saying NI must have an Irish language act and by repeatedly saying there can be no London-only direct rule if there is no deal (as is likely unless there is a climbdown to SF), Mr Varadkar talks about tabling proposals.

It is welcome that Arlene Foster has said “it is not appropriate for the Irish prime minister to outline future political steps relating to Northern Ireland and a resumption of talks”.

Her party should stay away from any talks that are held on the basis of any such tabled proposals.

There needs to be much more of this approach towards over-reach from Dublin, which approaches NI in a spirit of ‘joint stewardship’ and so has given so much comfort to republican tactics that have brought government here to a halt.