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DUP MP Wilson’s call to 'exploit' EU divisions over border rapped

DUP MP's remarks after own party called for cool heads branded 'despicable' by SF

Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has urged the Prime Minister to "exploit the cracks" emerging in the "illogical" position of Brussels and Dublin over the backstop.

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He yesterday urged Theresa May to stand up to the EU and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and "face down (their) stubbornness".

His statement came within 24 hours of DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds calling for "cool heads and responsible language" on Brexit. Sinn Fein denounced Mr Wilson's comments as "despicable".

The East Antrim MP said there was "chaos" in Brussels and Dublin over the backstop. "We always knew it would come to this when Brussels was faced with a situation of its own intransigence," he said.

"It is one of the reasons why the March 29 date must not be moved, otherwise the pressure which the EU and the Irish are now facing will be removed.

"Now is the time for the Government to be tough and to face down the stubbornness of Dublin and Brussels."

Mr Wilson continued: "Whether it was waving front page stories about bombs 30 years ago or silly talk about troops being sent to the border, the Irish Government has exploited the Brexit negotiations for its own narrow political domestic aims. To use border communities in such a way is quite disgraceful.

"Leo Varadkar may have thought in his naivety that it was wise to suck up to the EU. Maybe he even hopes to get a post in Europe in the future, but in reality he should be cautious."

Mr Wilson said the Republic was a small country which the EU would "toss aside, damage and abandon" when it was no longer of use.

"It appears that that day is arriving and it's time for the Irish to work constructively and advocate for a sensible trading arrangement with their biggest market in Great Britain," he added.

But Sinn Fein MLA Chris Hazzard said it was "despicable for Sammy Wilson to say the Brexit chaos in Europe should be exploited at this time to serve the narrow agenda of the Brexiteers". He said: "It was Sammy Wilson and his ilk who caused this chaos by advocating and pursuing Brexit against the wishes of the people of the North.

"While he may be revelling in chaos, businesses in the north across a range of sectors, community organisations and others are under intense pressure because of the uncertainty created by Brexit and many are facing an uncertain future."

Meanwhile, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood said MPs needed to recognise that the DUP was out of step with the majority of people here over the backstop.

"People in Northern Ireland support a legally operative backstop to protect people here. This position is supported by the business community, farmers, trade unions and the majority of people here. It's time MPs listened to them," he added.

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry described as "deeply troubling" reports that the Government would support the Brady amendment to replace the backstop.

"While the debate and votes on Tuesday may not be meaningful, and the amendment may not be successful, the support given to it by the Prime Minister is an act of bad faith," he said.

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