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DUP denies Gordon Brown's claim its 'toxic nationalism' will tear Union apart

Gordon Brown fears the break-up of the UK
Gordon Brown fears the break-up of the UK
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The DUP's Sammy Wilson has rejected claims by the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown that its "toxic nationalism" is threatening the Union.

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Mr Brown said British politics was now being driven by nationalism and that a no-deal Brexit would cause "an unprecedented economic calamity".

He claimed the DUP cared more about preserving its "diehard nationalism" than preventing a disastrous hard border.

East Antrim MP Mr Wilson said Mr Brown's arguments were that a of "a desperate man" and that he believed a no-deal Brexit would not threaten the Union or lead to a hard border.

In an article for The Guardian newspaper, Mr Brown said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had set "almost impossible terms" for any EU negotiation and his Government was pushing a "destructive, populist, nationalist ideology".

He described the state of the Union as "precarious" at best thanks to Scottish nationalists advancing "a more extreme" form of separation, and said unionist parties here had become "Northern Irish nationalists".

Mr Brown said that unionist parties should be persuaded their best interests - the integrity of the UK and an open border with the Republic of Ireland - were best served in the customs union and single market.

"But the DUP has convinced itself that its stance on Europe has to be couched in purely nationalist terms - as a test not of what's best economically for Northern Ireland, but of whether a diehard brand of nationalism will prevail."

But speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Wilson said: "This is the argument of a desperate man, who sees Britain's exit from the EU becoming inevitable and probably on the basis of a no-deal."

He said pressure on the Union was nothing new, citing the emergence of Scottish nationalism and the IRA campaign in Northern Ireland.

"I don't think Brexit makes it any more likely those pressures are going to bear any fruit," he said.

"The Scottish nationalists will continue to push for a referendum no matter what and republicans and nationalists in Northern Ireland will continue to do the same.

"I also don't see the DUP's position as being Northern Ireland nationalist, I see it as being a UK position.

"My view is that first of all people have voted to leave the EU; secondly you can leave the EU without stoking nationalism; and thirdly nobody is willing to impose a hard border."

Mr Wilson went on to warn that a no-deal would be just as damaging to the EU.

"There's no region will be hurt more by a no-deal than the Irish Republic, because they stand to lose its main market for food production," he said.

"We've been encouraging the Government to make it quite clear to the Irish Republic that if they leave without a deal and there's no arrangement to avoid tariffs we should impose the full tariff on their products.

"The previous Government said they wouldn't, but all our conversations with Boris Johnson have been to say: 'You cannot allow the Irish to be exempt from duties'.

"If that's the case that will be very hard for the Irish economy, for those reasons it's far better to get a deal.

"But in the event of a no-deal, there's big questions the EU and the Irish are going to have to stand up to."

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