Keeping Northern Ireland in Customs Union 'beyond crazy' - DUP

Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill speaking to the media outside Belfast City Hall. Sinn Fein argued that Northern Ireland "can't withstand" being excluded from the customs union and single market
Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill speaking to the media outside Belfast City Hall. Sinn Fein argued that Northern Ireland "can't withstand" being excluded from the customs union and single market
Share this article

Any demand to keep Northern Ireland inside the customs union after Brexit would be "beyond crazy", the DUP leader has said.

Arlene Foster was reacting to reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Prime Minister Boris Johnson that a deal would only be possible if Northern Ireland remained in the same customs regime as the Irish Republic.

Later Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O'Neill took the opposite view, insisting Northern Ireland "can't withstand" being excluded from the customs union and the single market.

Ms Foster claimed the EU was not interested in a negotiated outcome.

"The comments from the German Chancellor to the Prime Minister that Northern Ireland must remain in the EU Customs Union forever now reveal the real objective of Dublin and the European Union," she said.

"For the United Kingdom to be asked to leave a part of its sovereign territory in a foreign organisation of which the UK would no longer be a part and over which we would have no say whatsoever is beyond crazy. No UK Government could ever concede such a surrender

"The EU is not interested in a negotiated outcome at this time. Their position is the UK can only leave with a deal if it agrees a binding piece of international law permanently tying either the whole country or a part of it to the EU's legal order over which it has no control.

"The true purpose of the 'backstop' is now in the open for all to see. Those who eagerly supported the backstop as the best of both worlds can now see the error of that assessment.

"It was neither temporary nor an insurance policy."

The DUP leader added: "The Prime Minister's proposals have flushed out Dublin's real intentions to trap Northern Ireland in the EU Customs Union forever, where Dublin rather than the United Kingdom's elected representatives would be in the driving seat.

"We will not accept any such ultimatum or outcome."

Speaking later on Monday in Belfast before travelling to Brussels to meet EU figures, Ms O'Neill reacted to comments by European Council president Donald Tusk who accused Boris Johnson of jeopardising the future security of the EU and the UK.

"I think what we are witnessing today at European level from Donald Tusk is an exasperation at the British Government's approach to the Brexit position, and they are continuing to play fast and loose with our livelihoods, the real implications of Brexit are job losses," she said.

"The language of both Arlene Foster and the DUP and the language of the British Government is inflammatory language, it is actually untrue in parts, what they are doing is playing fast and loose with our livelihoods. It's not good enough.

"The real implications are going to be felt here on this island, the DUP are on the wrong side of the argument.

"The bottom line is that the north can't withstand being excluded from the customs union and the single market, that's what needs to be protected.

"Europe has been consistent around the elements that need to be protected, the all island economy, protection of the Good Friday Agreement, no hard border on this island and we need to stay in the customs union and the single market."