Irish Government approach to unionists ‘does not bode well for future’ – UUP

Varadkar accused of not being interested in listening to unionists over Brexit

 

Unionist leaders have accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of not being prepared to sit down and discuss Brexit directly with them.

After British prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed he would be meeting Mr Varadkar on Monday, the DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds repeated that the backstop, designed to avoid a hard Border, was the key to the failure of the withdrawal agreement to win assent from the House of Commons.

He also said the backstop contradicted the Belfast Agreement’s principle of consent in relation to any future constitutional change to the position of Northern Ireland.

He said it would also “see laws made in Brussels impacting the economy of Northern Ireland with no-one in London or Belfast able to vote on them or even ask a question about them”.

“These are points which could be made directly to Leo Varadkar if the Irish prime minister would drop his refusal to sit down and engage directly with unionist representatives,” said Mr Dodds.

“When we hear so much about conciliation and progress I hope that when our prime minister meets his Irish counterpart he might be able to encourage Mr Varadkar to engage with unionists on this vitally important issue,” he added.

Logjam

The Ulster Unionist Party leader, Robin Swann criticised Mr Varadkar for maintaining faith with the backstop.

“Only yesterday [Monday] he welcomed our proposals to break the logjam over the backstop yet today he has retreated to the trenches,” said Mr Swann.

“His approach is destined to break the Belfast Agreement and I would respectfully suggest that he should reflect on his comments,” he added.

“It is clear that he has’t listened to a single word about the genuine concerns of unionists which we expressed when we engaged with him and Irish Government officials,” said Mr Swann.

He added, “If this had been the approach of previous Irish Government administrations, there would never have been a Belfast Agreement. We have tried to be constructive but it is clear that the Varadkar Government just isn’t interested in listening to the views of Unionists. This approach does not bode well for the future.”

Meanwhile, the Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister has welcomed as a “reality check” US vice-president Mike Pence’s comment in Dublin that the Government should negotiate “in good faith” on Brexit.

“For too long the line peddled by Varadkar has been accepted by those who want to defy the referendum result, and much of the media, as gospel,” he said.

“I only wish there was a greater willingness on the part of our own government to tell Dublin that they need to ‘respect the UK’s sovereignty’,” he added.

“It is clear that the Trump administration recognises that the EU and Dublin have not been negotiating in good faith to date. It is very gratifying to hear these issues spelt out so clearly and publicly so. I hope the NIO [Northern Ireland Office] was listening.”