Belfast Telegraph

Foster warns Coveney he is rejecting 'reasonable' Brexit offer with 'intransigent' remarks

  • Simon Coveney said if Boris Johnson's plan is the final proposal "there will be no deal"
  • Arlene Foster said Mr Coveney's remarks were "unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent"
  • Nigel Dodds said Leo Varadkar will be remembered as the Taoiseach who restored a hard border in Ireland

The leader of the DUP has warned the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney that he is rejecting a reasonable offer in Boris Johnson's latest Brexit paper.

Arlene Foster accused Mr Coveney of paving the road for a no-deal Brexit if he rejects the proposal.

Speaking in the Dail on Thursday, Mr Coveney said there would be no Brexit deal if the paper put forward by the Prime Minister is the final proposal.

Mrs Foster described Mr Coveney's remarks as "deeply unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent".

"The Irish government’s majoritarian desire to ride roughshod over unionism was one of the reasons why the Withdrawal Agreement was rejected," she said.

"Mr Coveney’s rejection of a reasonable offer is paving the road for a no deal exit because unionism will not allow Northern Ireland to be trapped at the whim of Dublin or the EU. We will not buy that," she said.

"The Irish government’s preparedness to dump the consent principle for their country’s expediency is foolish in the extreme and sends a very clear message to unionists.

"From our 2017 Manifesto to Paragraph 50 of the December 2017 Joint Report, the consent of the people of Northern Ireland for specific solutions has been key. 

"It is at the heart of the Belfast and St Andrews Agreements, yet the Irish Foreign Minister is now railing against it because it doesn’t suit his agenda."

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Coveney said he believed Mr Johnson wanted to make a deal.

The Irish Government regarded the proposal as a serious proposal and that was why their response is a cautious one, he said.

"But if that is the final proposal there will be no deal. There are a number of fundamental problems with that proposal."

He said it would not be the basis of a final agreement, “but I hope it will be a stepping stone” - saying that there are serious problems with the proposals for customs checks, the role that would be played by the Stormont Executive and a veto for any party on whether to stay in the agreement.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds also hit out at Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Mr Coveney for their response to Boris Johnson's proposals.

“The incendiary and outrageous comments by Leo Varadkar and his Foreign Minister are a clear ramping up of rhetoric designed to derail any realistic prospect of a deal," he said.

"The flippant Dublin reaction to the Prime Minister’s proposals has also exposed the reality that the Irish government would never have consented to the United Kingdom leaving the backstop if it had been implemented.

"Our message to Leo is simple. He should reflect on his comments and his intransigent approach. 

"He is destined to go down in history as the Taoiseach who restored a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because his friends in Brussels will insist on it.”

On a visit to Sweden, Mr Varadkar said Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans “fall short in a number of aspects”.

Mr Varadkar said there were five ways to avoid a hard border – the reunification of Ireland; the Irish Republic re-joining the UK; the UK remaining in the single market or customs union; the border backstop mechanism; or the UK reversing the Brexit decision.

“There are one in five ways that this can be done, and at least four of those would be acceptable to the Irish government, but the best one is of course a backstop or some form of backstop, and that’s what we are trying to achieve,” he said.

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