Belfast Telegraph

Wilson accuses 'partisan' Taoiseach of damaging Anglo-Irish relationships

By Staff Reporter

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson yesterday accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of trying to drive a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, and slammed what he called the "cynical, aggressive, green, partisan" approach taken by the Irish Government during the Brexit negotiations.

Speaking on RTE yesterday, Mr Wilson said "As a Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive I had very good relationships with the finance ministers in the Republic.

"But I can tell you none of them would have dealt with Northern Ireland in the way that those two - Coveney and Varadkar - have dealt with Northern Ireland - and they have, whether they like it or not, they have damaged those relationships.

"They are going to have to do an awful lot of work to convince unionists that they are not seeking to undermine Northern Ireland's position, and are using Brexit as a cover to do so."

Mr Wilson told RTE Radio 1's Keelin Shanley that yesterday's agreement had "spiked the guns" of the Taoiseach, who the MP accused of using Brexit in an attempt to pursue his "republican agenda".

"I can tell you that in Northern Ireland the Dublin Government's handling of this has been seen as cynical, aggressive, green, partisan, and has damaged relationship built up over a long period of time."

The DUP Brexit spokesman, who was closely involved in this week's roller-coaster Brexit negotiations, revealed that his party was uncomfortable with part of the final text presented yesterday morning by the Prime Minister, but had accepted the wording, given the assurances in the document that the UK - including Northern Ireland - will be leaving the customs union and single market.

Mr Wilson (right) said that Stormont Assembly and Executive would have a veto on attempts to use administrative or regulatory mechanisms to "drive a wedge" between Northern Ireland and rest of the UK.

"The working of the NI Assembly and Executive requires that there be cross-community support for any of those kinds of measure. That gives the protection that we seek, because they would never ever get our consent," Mr Wilson told the programme.

Turning to how border arrangement would be handled post Brexit, the DUP MP said that a virtually invisible border was "perfectly deliverable".

"First of all, we don't want to see checkpoints, places where people and goods are stopped along the border.

"I think that if you look at this from a unionist point of view, we have a greater investment ensuring that the nationalist people in Northern Ireland feel comfortable with the border arrangements that anyone else has. The more comfortable nationalists are with the existing arrangements in Northern Ireland, the better that is for the Union.

"The use of administrative changes, electronic means, by exempting certain kinds of cross-border trade, the bundle of arrangements suggested by the Government in its paper in August - which were dismissed out of hand by the aggressive approach that Mr Varadkar has adopted - is something that we will have to return two in phase 2 (of the Brexit talks) and which we look forward to working with the Government on delivering."

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