Belfast Telegraph

DUP will use Westminster influence to block Irish Sea border proposal: Nigel Dodds

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP has said it will flex its muscles in Westminster to ensure Northern Ireland is not separated from the rest of the UK by a border in the Irish sea.

Reports have surfaced Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is hardening on his stance on how to handle the EU border with the UK after Brexit.

DUP leader in Westminster Nigel Dodds said a hardening of attitudes from the Irish Government was "untimely and unhelpful" and he and his party's MPs would use their influence to ensure the "integrity of the UK" remains at the core of the talks.

The North Belfast MP said it was "wrong" for Mr Varadkar to cite a risk to peace as one of his reasons for the move branding it a "scare tactic" saying instead he should approach the issues in a "new spirit of cooperation".

He said: "The DUP will not tolerate a border on the Irish Sea after Brexit that makes it more difficult to live, work and travel between different parts of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has already reiterated this.

"At Westminster we will continue to use the influence of our 10 MPs to ensure that respect for the integrity of the UK remains at the core of the negotiations process."

The DUP deputy leader said a border in the Irish Sea would hinder the multi-billion-pound trade between Northern Ireland and Britain.

He continued: "The result of the General Election proved that an overwhelming number of people in Northern Ireland value our place in the Union and the social and economic links that brings with it.

"A border on the Irish Sea may give the Republic of Ireland a special economic status within Northern Ireland but the heavy price would be new barriers to trade in the UK for firms in our Province. Indeed the fact that Mr Coveney has moved toward this approach will be as worrying for Irish beef producers as it is for NI dairy processors. In 2016 almost 40% of all Irish exports went to the UK, including 49% of all beef.

The DUP will not tolerate a border on the Irish Sea after Brexit that makes it more difficult to live, work and travel between different parts of the United Kingdom.

"The Irish Government has every right to advocate for their economy and citizens in the ongoing talks; however it is wrong that peace in Northern Ireland should be exploited in this way.

"The suggestion that unmanned technology could somehow spark a return to violence is not one that a majority of people on either side of the border can countenance. Irrespective of what side of the referendum result they stand it is time for all sides and all political parties to call out this type of scare-tactic for what it is."

Mr Dodds suggest the move by Irish ministers was in part down to electioneering rather than "finding a practical solution".

"This is not the first time the Irish Government has played high wire politics with the challenges facing Northern Ireland.

"Mr Coveney’s comments also come hot on the tail of a previous unwise intervention on the issue of the Irish language. This is unhelpful toward progressing ongoing talks aimed at restoring devolution at Stormont. I would strongly urge the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to rethink his current stance, stop playing to his own audience, and approach all of these issues with a new spirit of cooperation.”

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