Belfast Telegraph

Irish Sea border 'utter madness' - DUP's Donaldson rubbishes Dublin Brexit proposal

Either it's a hard border or Ireland will wise up and leave EU, says Paisley

By Jonathan Bell

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson described reports Dublin ministers are pushing for the Irish Sea to act as the border between the UK and the Republic after Brexit as "utter madness".

It comes after the London Times said new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is unconvinced by the UK’s plans to introduce a high-tech land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Sir Jeffrey described the plan as "economic nonsense".

He told the BBC: "The port of Belfast is our biggest port, 73% of what goes through it either comes or is destined for Great Britain. Why on earth would it be in the interests of the Northern Ireland economy to have a customs border between Northern Ireland and London, between Northern Ireland and Great Britain?

"It would be utter madness."

Prime Minister Theresa May is facing another setback in the Brexit negotiations, Friday's Times reported. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is one of the key issues that needs to be resolved by the UK and the EU before talks begin on a new trade deal.

The Times said new Taoseach Leo Varadkar and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney were pushing for the Irish Sea to be the effective border. They have said to impose measures on the 310 mile land border would jeopardise peace.

The newspaper said the two were "stamping their authority" and the change of tone from Dublin had stunned London officials.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes, reacting, said reports around the matter were both "unhelpful and speculative".

British ministers had proposed using measures like surveillance cameras to allow free movement between the north and south of the island.

Sir Jeffrey added: "I think Dublin is being too pessimistic and I suspect that behind this is a little bit of politics going on which is unhelpful.”

“There is no way that the DUP will go for a border like this. Dublin really needs to understand that that proposition is absurd and unconstitutional.”

South Belfast DUP MLA Christopher Stalford, referring to the report described the move as "another foot in mouth moment".

"If they push this line further it will result in a hard border. Their choice not ours," he said.

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