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DUP’s Donaldson slams EU diplomat’s assertion Irish border is ‘illogical’

By Staff Reporter

Claims by an EU diplomat that the Irish border is “illogical” and “cannot be policed” were rubbished last night by a senior member of the DUP. European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt visited the border region on Wednesday in Co Monaghan before making the controversial comments in Dublin yesterday.

“It’s [the border] not a river, it’s not a mountain bridge. It meanders for 310 miles through meadows, forests, farmland, it cannot be securely policed and is therefore in fact an illogical divide, one that at least should remain invisible, just as it is today,” Mr Verhofstadt said.

But DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson accused the Belgian MEP of using “unhelpful” language, and echoing Sinn Fein.

“It is rather ironic that we have the European Parliament’s spokesman using Sinn Fein language to describe the border and talking about the cost of securing the border when it was republicans who for 30 years engaged in a campaign of violence along the border, and who continue to engage in smuggling,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.

“It is Mr Verhofstadt whose comments are illogical. We support the proposals put forward by the UK Government.

“We believe these proposals are the best way to secure the soft border which is what we all want.”

Sir Jeffrey added: “He’s entitled to his opinion. But what he needs to understand is that the UK is leaving.

“The UK has put forward reasonable proposals for creating a soft border after we leave the EU.

“It is now up to Brussels to respond to the UK’s reasonable plans.”

DUP MEP Diane Dodds also criticised the Belgian MEP’s views last night, saying said it was time for the EU to ‘stop stalling’, stop fixating on money — and move the Brexit negotiations on.

Mr Verhofstadt yesterday addressed a joint meeting of the committees for EU Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, though Minister of State for European Affairs Helen McEntee was also present, as was Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams.

Mr Verhofstadt does not attend the Brexit negotiations but the European Parliament must sign off on the final Brexit deal, and he is the link between the parliament and the European Commission’s negotiating team.

Ahead of a much anticipated Brexit speech by UK Prime Minister Theresa May in Florence today, Mr Verhofstadt said the EU would not allow Ireland to suffer from the UK’s EU departure, nor would Ireland, or any other member state, be used as a bargaining chip.

He said he was in Ireland to bring a message of solidarity.

“Solidarity with Ireland and Irish citizens. What has been clear from the beginning is that we will never allow that Ireland will suffer by the British decision to leave the European Union,” Mr Verhofstadt said.

“That’s a commitment that we have taken with the European Parliament.”

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