Belfast Telegraph

Republic's stance 'grave danger' to trade talks, warns Dodds

By Staff Reporter

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds MP last night described the Irish Government's hardline stance on Brexit as posing a "grave danger" to successful trade talks with the EU.

The North Belfast MP was taking part in a BBC Any Questions panel discussion in Newry.

"I fully understand why the Dublin Government of Leo Varadkar are talking very strongly - because they are desperate to keep open their trade into the rest of the United Kingdom", he said on the programme.

"They are absolutely dependent on that market. But they are in grave danger - if they keep up the current rhetoric, and stay on their current path - of delaying and possibly frustrating trade talks .

"It's the trade talks that are absolutely vital. That's where the issue of what the customs border looks like will be decided, because if we get a free trade deal with the rest of Europe, a lot of the problems (that people are worried about) will not exist."

Speaking on the day that senior EU figure Donald Tusk flew to Dublin to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Mr Dodds warned that if the Irish Government played hardball and vetoed progress in the UK-EU talks, the result was likely to be a "no deal" scenario, with the UK leaving the EU and subsequently trading with the bloc on World Trade Organisation terms, as do the USA, China and others.

That outcome would be "devastating" for the Republic of Ireland, the MP told the BBC audience in Newry's Sean Hollywood Centre.

"What we need to do is to move on the second stage, get that free trade deal," Mr Dodds said. "But if we don't get a deal and the EU and the Irish Republic continue to threaten and say they are not going to move on, if there is a 'no deal' scenario, then the people that will be affected hardest and most devastatingly will be the economy of the Irish Republic. So we need to get real here, and see it is in everybody's interest to move on to the second stage (of negotiations with the EU), and get a good deal for everyone."

Asked if cross border co-operation on electricity supply could be a model for post Brexit north-south relations, Mr Dodds said: "There are particular areas, like energy, because our energy markets north and south are small, where it makes sense to co-operate. That should continue. And if there are other areas where we can co-operate, of course."

But he rejected what he called the "political dogma" which says "let's cut off Northern Ireland from the UK in such a way that it has preferential terms with Europe, but very poor relations with our main market. That is just economic illiteracy," he said.

The BBC programme also featured Labour MP Kate Hoey, Sinn Fein MLA and former Stormont finance minister Mairtin O Muilleoir, Conservative MP Damian Collins, and broadcaster Fintan O'Toole.

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