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Brexit: 'Brit-bashing' Taoiseach Varadkar has undone good relations work I helped build, says DUP's Sammy Wilson

By Jonathan Bell

Sammy Wilson accused "Brit-bashing" Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of harming good relations he helped forge between the Belfast and Dublin administrations while he was a minister in the Northern Ireland Executive.

The East Antrim MP made the comments on Sky News the morning after his party voted against Theresa May's government on its finance bill. He said the move did not cause financial harm but rather sent a political warning shot to the Prime Minister.

He argued the move strengthened the hand of the Prime Minister in getting a better agreement with the EU when she returned to Brussels.

It was put to him that part of the party's rejection of the draft withdrawal text was in part down to its dislike for the Good Friday Agreement and how it gave Dublin some say over the affairs of Northern Ireland. In 1998 the DUP was an anti-agreement party and vigorously opposed it.

Mr Wilson said the party's objections had nothing to do with the agreement. He said EU negotiators had instead used it as a way to extract concessions over the course of the talks.

"I worked in the Northern Ireland Assembly as finance minister and as environment minister for six years, working with Dublin administrations and working well with Dublin administrations and setting up good relationships," he said.

"And all of that good work has been undone by the Brit-bashing Taoiseach that we have now in the Republic."

Writing in Tuesday's Belfast Telegraph, the Prime Minister Theresa May said the deal brokered with the EU was good for long term future of Northern Ireland and put the country in a "fantastic position for the future". She also said NI's position in the UK was "guaranteed".

Sammy Wilson said his party could never support the agreement.

He said it was "strange" and should ring alarm bells that the Taoiseach had made it "quite clear" as well as EU talks chief Michel Barnier there would be no hard border in the eventuality of no agreement being reached.

"This illustrates the point we have been making all along. The border issue is a con. If you can have no deal and no hard border then how can you argue that in any other deal there would be a hard border?"

The DUP Brexit spokesman said his party was focused on getting a better Brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU than what was on offer from Theresa May. He also argued that the DUP's voting against the government strengthened Theresa May's hand in returning to Brussels to get a better deal and the confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives was still intact.

He said the stakes were "far too high" for the party to be "bought off with a few baubles" from the government in order to win their support.

"All of our efforts are directed - along with a large number of Conservative MPs in both the remain and leave camps and as well as opposition parties - to defeat this deal," he added.

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