Stop ‘megaphone diplomacy’ from Dublin over Brexit

Jeffrey Donaldson says Leo Varadkar needs to be at negotiating table to avoid hard Border

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: ‘We have to co-operate here. A solution has to be one that is agreed.’ Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson: ‘We have to co-operate here. A solution has to be one that is agreed.’ Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has returned to the DUP-Irish Government Brexit spat by complaining about “megaphone diplomacy from Dublin”.

On the prospects of a hard border Sir Jeffrey said on Tuesday: “If the Irish Government is going to say they’re not going to co-operate in designing a solution then of course . . . the UK will get on with designing a solution.”

The DUP politician was responding to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s comments last week that the Government was “not going to design a border for the Brexiteers”.

Mr Varadkar also complained that the failure of the DUP and Sinn Féin primarily to strike a deal to restore the Northern Executive and Assembly meant that when it came to “Northern Ireland I have nobody to ring” about how to deal with Brexit.

DUP and other unionist politicians also took exception to one report that rather than a hard border on the island of Ireland the Government wanted a border in the middle of the Irish Sea. This was denied by the Government.

Ahead of an expected visit to Northern Ireland by Mr Varadkar later this week the temperature was increased when Fine Gael senator Neale Richmond in a statement issued through his party’s press office accused the DUP of “political impotence” and “whinging” over Brexit.

“The DUP’s whinging doesn’t hide their political impotence. They would be far better off seeking to influence their Government partners in Westminster and working to get the Executive back up and running to give Northern Ireland a strong voice,” said Mr Richmond.

‘Low level’

On Monday evening Sir Jeffrey declined to respond to Mr Richmond, saying he was a “low level” politician but that he would respond if “Fine Gael put up somebody with credibility”.

On Tuesday morning however Sir Jeffrey changed his mind and again weighed into the cross-Border row. “What won’t solve the problem is megaphone diplomacy from Dublin,” he said.

“I think the Taoiseach needs to recognise that going back to the politics of the 1970s and 80s in Anglo-Irish relations isn’t going to help anyone,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

“We have to co-operate here. A solution has to be one that is agreed and that means Dublin has to have an input,” he said.

“If Dublin refuses to co-operate on this inevitably we are going to end up in a different arrangement that could result in some sort of hard border. Now that’s not in Dublin’s interests - the Irish economy would suffer greatly if we can’t find an agreed way forward,” he added.

“So I would say to the Taoiseach, who is coming to Belfast later in the week - he needs to be at the table.”

‘Forcefully’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar denied the charge that his Government was involved in “megaphone” diplomacy.

“I’ve never been involved in megaphone politics. I express the position of the Government in relation to Brexit and it’s my role as Taoiseach to express the position of the Government and to do so publicly, just as people from the DUP, Sinn Féin and any party in Northern Ireland are free to give their position and give forcefully,” he said.

“And I think in fairness to them they’ve done that so I wouldn’t accept that contention at all.”

Mr Varadkar said he looked forward to travelling to Northern Ireland on Friday to meet leaders of the various parties.

“The best way that they can have influence over the kind of Brexit that we have is to form an assembly, form an executive.”

He said he wanted the United Kingdom to stay in the customs union and the single market, so there would be “no need for any border of any consequence”.