Ulster Unionist Party slates ‘brash behaviour’ by Taoiseach

‘Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney may yet lead to a place where none of us want to go’

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann: “The DUP were asleep at the wheel.”  File photograph: Peter Morrison/PA

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann: “The DUP were asleep at the wheel.” File photograph: Peter Morrison/PA

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Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann has warned that the Government “should be careful what it wishes for” in relation to the proposed Brexit deal.

Mr Swann, who is to speak at the Fine Gael Ardfheis in Dublin on Saturday, said his party is opposed to the draft withdrawal deal.He was also withering about the DUP.

“Despite repeated warnings to tone down the language and act like good neighbours, the brash behaviour of the Irish Government led by Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney may yet lead to a place where none of us want to go,” he said on Friday night.

“A no-deal Brexit isn’t in anyone’s interests. But if they continue to pursue an aggressive stance in future negotiations, they will continue to raise the hackles of even the most mild mannered of unionists across the United Kingdom,” he added. “For us, the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland comes first.”

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Mr Swann described the agreement as an inevitable consequence of the British government and the DUP allowing a backstop inclusion in last December’s EU-UK agreement.

The backstop was a “monumental error of judgment”, he said. “We cannot and will not support the withdrawal agreement because it will be a long-term challenge to the integrity of the United Kingdom. In the unlikely event that the agreement makes its way through parliament, its impact will be felt for decades to come.”

He added that “the impact may not necessarily happen immediately. But as the months and years pass, the implementation of the disastrous backstop will see Northern Ireland potentially drift farther away from the rest of the United Kingdom unless action is taken to reverse its effects.”

Mr Swann said the backstop would act as an incentive for Scottish Nationalists to use “every excuse under the sun to destabilise another part of the United Kingdom”.

The UUP leader said that last year the party warned that the backstop would be a “millstone around the neck of the United Kingdom”. The backstop is designed as an insurance trade arrangement to avoid a hard border in Ireland,

“But our warnings were ignored at that time by both the (British) government along with their DUP partners,” he continued.

He accused the DUP of failing in its “primary duty to protect the integrity of the Union and its people.

“The DUP were asleep at the wheel,” said Mr Swann. “They bear enormous responsibility for what has happened. They either misused whatever influence they had or were so full of their own hubris, that they didn’t see what was coming down the tracks.”

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