Belfast Telegraph

Brexit: Peter Robinson accuses Dublin of using border issue to push for Irish unity

By Allan Preston

Former First Minister Peter Robinson has told Dublin to "wind its neck in" on the Irish border issue as the DUP threatened to withdraw its support for Theresa May's government.

Tensions over Brexit are soaring after reports suggested London had proposed a deal that would mean Northern Ireland staying in the customs union and single market after Brexit.

The DUP vehemently opposes such a move, effectively threatening to bring the minority government down by withdrawing its MPs' votes on which the Tories rely for survival.

Last night, former DUP leader Mr Robinson accused Dublin of cynically taking advantage of Brexit uncertainty to pursue Irish unity.

He accused Irish ministers of "clambering over each other to instil fear in unionist minds and express gratuitously offensive anti-British rhetoric".

He added: "There appears to be a studied strategy to use the Brexit challenges - not as a means to display co-operation and good neighbourliness but to drive for constitutional change."

"They are doing significant harm to North/South relations. A more positive and accommodating approach is needed from the Republic, or in layman's terms 'the South needs to wind its neck in'," he said.

His successor as DUP leader, Arlene Foster, also said her party would never agree to such a deal.

"The UK voted to the leave the European Union as one nation and we are leaving as one nation," said Mrs Foster.

The SDLP's Brexit spokeswoman, Claire Hanna MLA, said she was concerned at the rapid deterioration in "East-West relations".

"It's quite typical of the DUP that when they are confronted with their illogical and untenable position they go negative," she said.

"We're in a really serious situation here, and the DUP are getting on like monkeys left in charge of Ming vases."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry cautiously welcomed the proposed deal, and described it as "consistent with the Agreement".

"Regulatory convergence on the island could be one key component of some form of pragmatic way forward," he said.

"It is possible for Northern Ireland to be both inside the UK and the EU single markets - they are not mutually exclusive."

But Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald urged the Irish government to use "maximum leverage" ahead of the critical December summit.

"All the talk about regulatory divergence and convergence misses the point," she said.

"The solution is for the North to be granted designated special status within the EU as part of any final agreement.

"That would allow the North to remain part of the single market and the customs union."

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said the proposal being floated risked breaching the Good Friday Agreement.

"The economic consequences of leaving the UK single market would hurt all communities in Northern Ireland," he added.

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