Belfast Telegraph

DUP Dodds' anger as Dutch PM says Brexit may see violence return

DUP deputy claims Varadkar feeding misinformation to fellow EU leaders

Nigel Dodds
Nigel Dodds
Mark Rutte
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has hit out at comments by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte that Brexit could lead to the end of the Good Friday Agreement and fresh violence.

Mr Dodds described the remarks as "uninformed and careless" and laid the blame at the door of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

"The Republic of Ireland's Prime Minister has been to the fore in feeding emotionally charged but inaccurate information to his fellow EU27 heads of government," he said.

"From photocopying and distributing 30-year-old border bomb stories, to repeatedly twisting the Belfast/St Andrews Agreements for his own political ends, Leo Varadkar has painted a wildly inaccurate picture for the EU27 about Northern Ireland and the border."

Mr Dodds said London, Brussels and Dublin had all confirmed that, even in a no-deal scenario, there would be no hard border.

"Therefore the comments by Mark Rutte were utterly uninformed and careless," he added.

"Mr Rutte may not realise but, only 19 days ago, the same republican terrorist ideology which bombed the border checkpoints 30 years ago attempted to murder a police officer in Belfast.

"The desire for murder is not driven by pro-EU sentiments or anti-Brexit sentiments, but by a deep sectarian hatred of Britishness.

"If Mr Rutte and his fellow EU27 leaders really want to protect the peace process in Northern Ireland, then they will not impose a deal which all unionists in Northern Ireland reject.

"They will work for a sensible deal which everyone can support.

"Building a new border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom would run absolutely contrary to the Belfast Agreement."

Speaking earlier, Mr Rutte had said the next British Prime Minister needed to realise that a no-deal Brexit would be bad for the UK.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "With a hard Brexit, even with a normal Brexit, the UK will be a different country.

"It will be a diminished country. It is unavoidable."

And he said there could not be a transition period if a withdrawal agreement was not in place, telling the BBC: "As Boris Johnson would say: 'Brexit is Brexit'.

"I would say a hard Brexit is a hard Brexit. I don't see how you can sweeten it."

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has warned that any future Prime Minister seeking to delay Brexit beyond the end of October would face "enormous hostility" from the EU.

Mr Varadkar said an extension to the UK's membership would not be entertained for further negotiations or indicative votes, despite claims from the remaining Tory leadership contenders that they will be able to make changes to the withdrawal deal.

Arriving in Brussels at the start of the European Council summit, Mr Varadkar told reporters there was a "strong view" across the EU that there should be no more extensions. He said: "While I have endless patience, some of my colleagues have lost patience, quite frankly, with the UK, and there's enormous hostility to any further extension.

"So, I think an extension could only really happen if it were to facilitate something like a general election in the UK or perhaps even something like a second referendum, if they decided to have one.

"What won't be entertained is an extension for further negotiations or further indicative votes. The time for that has long since passed."

Mr Varadkar had a meeting with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday morning, at which, the Taoiseach said, the pair agreed that the withdrawal agreement would not be reopened but that they were willing to consider amendments to the joint political declaration.

And he warned: "There's no withdrawal agreement without a backstop and there's no implementation period without a withdrawal agreement."

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