Taoiseach playing ‘dangerous game’ with Ireland’s economy, says DUP

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds says Leo Varadkar’s comments about the possibility of Brexit talks continuing into the new year would cause more harm in the Republic

Nigel Dodds, DUP deputy leader:  “The Irish Republic would suffer far worse economically from no trade deal than the United Kingdom. ” Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Nigel Dodds, DUP deputy leader: “The Irish Republic would suffer far worse economically from no trade deal than the United Kingdom. ” Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

The DUP has accused the Taoiseach of playing a “dangerous game” with the Republic of Ireland’s economy.

On Wednesday DUP deputy leader and Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said comments Leo Varadkar made about the possibility of Brexit talks continuing into the new year “will send more worries through the business and commercial sectors of the Irish Republic than it will in Northern Ireland or the rest of the United Kingdom”.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil the Government wanted to move on to phase two of the talks but if this was not possible before next week’s EU summit it could be done in the new year.

Mr Dodds suggested delays in moving to phase two of the Brexit negotiations and a no deal outcome would be worse for the Republic than it would be for the UK. “The longer there is delay in getting on to the second phase of the negotiations about a trade deal, the greater the prospect of a ‘no trade deal’ outcome,” he said.

“The Irish Republic would suffer far worse economically from no trade deal than the United Kingdom.

“The Republic of Ireland has £13.4 billion worth of sales to the United Kingdom. It is estimated that tens of thousands of jobs are at stake.”

In an interview with Belfast Telegraph DUP leader Arlene Foster had said “there are lessons to been learned” from the breakdown of Brexit talks in Brussels and that her party now wants to be directly involved in future negotiations.

When asked what had gone so wrong in Brussels, she said if her party had been “involved directly in the process, in the room, I don’t think we would have arrived at such a stark situation”.

“If civil servants are working through particular scenarios and are looking at texts, I do think that when they’re talking about Northern Ireland it would be useful if we were directly involved,” she said.

“I’m not demanding that we have to be in the room for everything but there is a need for us to be directly involved.”

More involvement

A DUP source said Ms Foster was not requesting to travel to Brussels but, rather than mere phone contact with London, she wanted more direct involvement with any future text being considered by the UK negotiating team.

Ms Foster spoke with Ms May on Wednesday morning, her first conversation since the Brexit border deal collapsed on Monday after DUP problems with the text relating to regulatory alignment.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “Talks between Arlene Foster and the PM have been constructive. We are making good progress and there will be further engagement with the EU Commission before the end of the week.”

Mr Varadkar has said that he believed all parties in Ireland, North and South, should be listened to and see the text of any agreement on the border.

The Taoiseach also told the Dáil he absolutely accepted Ms May wanted an agreement on the post-Brexit border and was acting in good faith.

Speaking before his telephone conversation with the prime minister on Wednesday afternoon, he said he wanted to restate it was the Government’s desire, wish and ambition to move on to phase two of the talks. But if it was not possible to move to it next week, it could be done in the new year.

“I think we should listen to all parties in Northern Ireland and not accept this idea, that seems to be getting prevalence in some parts of London, and maybe other places as well, that there is only one party in Northern Ireland speaking for everyone,’’ he added.

‘Special status’

Sinn Féin northern leader Michelle O’Neill told RTÉ if Ms May was “going to engage with the DUP then she also needs to engage with all the other party leaders who do represent the majority of the people here in the North”.

Ms O’Neill said the solution to avoiding a hard border was “special status, which we can support with legal advice is actually doable”.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said events since Monday were best described as “an unedifying shambles” and there needed to be a resolution that secured the UK’s departure from the EU “on the best terms possible”.

On Wednesday evening Sinn Féin’s John Finucane told a “No border in Ireland” rally and mural unveiling in Belfast that the North’s 56 per cent remain vote must be respected.

In the coming days there will be similar Sinn Féin demonstrations in Aughnacloy, Derry, Dungiven, Greencastle and Rosslea.