Belfast Telegraph

Irish government rejects Brexit bilateral talks with DUP

It comes after DUP leader Arlene Foster said she hopes to speak with Irish premier Leo Varadkar later this week.

The Irish government has rejected the prospect of bilateral discussions on Brexit with the Democratic Unionist Party.

It comes after DUP leader Arlene Foster said she hopes to speak to Irish premier Leo Varadkar later this week.

Mrs Foster said her party is in the process of setting up talks with the Irish government.

In a statement, however, a spokesman for the government said: “The Irish government is always willing to discuss the Good Friday Agreement and peace process with the DUP.

“However, negotiations on Brexit take place through the European Commission.”

Mr Varadkar said he will travel to Northern Ireland on Friday where he will meet with political parties, but added he will not be holding any Brexit negotiations.

Speaking in the Dail, he said: “As should always be the case when you travel to Northern Ireland, we should listen to all of the parties and not just any one party.

“(I will) also speak to businesses and civil society in relation to Brexit, however I won’t be carrying out in negotiations with any political party because the negotiations are between the EU and the UK.

“While we can certainly have discussions with the UK and discussions with political parties or individuals politicians, the negotiations can only happen with Ireland and the EU on one side of the table and the UK on the other, and we are in a much stronger position in that regard and we will not be departing from that.”

On Monday, DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson said his party wants to have face-to-face discussions with the Irish government.

Speaking to RTE, he said: “I want to respect the integrity of the Irish government position, I want to sit down with them and see if we can move this forward.

“I believe there will be meaningful engagement and we have asked them.”

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Ulster, Mrs Foster said: “We recognise this is a very critical issue for our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland, and therefore taking what (Irish foreign affairs minister) Simon Coveney said in the Dail last week, when he said regardless of what happens we must work intensively together to ensure we avoid a hard border, regardless of whether we have a deal or not.

“I think that is a good starting point and we want to have those conversations.”

The DUP leader also said that Westminster has sent a message to the European Union that it wants a Brexit deal but that the controversial backstop arrangement “needs (to be) replaced”.

She added: “We have now narrowed the issue down to the backstop, they know that’s the problem, they have been told that for some considerable time but unfortunately they are turning their face against that and it is time for Brussels to respect Unionism in Northern Ireland.

“We have heard a lot about them understanding the Belfast Agreement, that they don’t want a hard border on the island of Ireland but they are quite content to build a hard border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, thereby interfering with the constitution of the UK.

“That is wrong as well and they need to recognise that.”

Press Association

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