Belfast Telegraph

EU Election 2019

Foster wants 'compromise' after Varadkar calls on government to recognise Northern Ireland support for Remain and backstop

DUP leader Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)
DUP leader Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called on the UK government to recognise support in Northern Ireland for the backstop and remaining in the European Union.

Mr Varadkar was speaking after Northern Ireland returned two remain-supporting MEPs in Monday's European election.

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster said that the current withdrawal agreement must be addressed and that compromise is the way forward.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long joined fellow Remainer, Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson, and Brexit-supporting DUP MEP Diane Dodds in Brussels in a historic result.

Mrs Long called for a People's Vote to be held on Brexit following her election.

Prior to the election Northern Ireland had two Brexit-supporting MEPs in Mrs Dodds and the UUP's Jim Nicholson, who retired prior to last week's vote. UUP candidate Danny Kennedy failed to retain the seat.

While the UUP had initially backed Remain in the EU Referendum, following the result the party said that the democratic will of the people must be delivered.

The Taoiseach said that he hoped the results of the EU election would be recognised in Westminster.

"What I think is really significant, and I hope this has been noticed in Britain, is the result of the European elections in Northern Ireland, where for 40 years there have been two unionists and one nationalist," Mr Varadkar said.

"That is no longer the case. There is one unionist, one Alliance Party MEP and one nationalist.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar arrives for an EU summit in Brussels. (John Thys, Pool Photo via AP)
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar arrives for an EU summit in Brussels. (John Thys, Pool Photo via AP)

"So, two out of the three MEPs elected in Northern Ireland are supporting the European Union and supporting the backstop and I hope that hasn't been missed as a fact by the British government and the wiser British people."

In response to the Taoiseach's comments DUP leader Arlene Foster said that it was time he realised that the best way forward was to "address the flaws in the withdrawal agreement".

"Compromise should not be seen as weakness. It was a UK question, respect the referendum," Mrs Foster said.

"Northern Ireland had two 'Remain' MEPs before the election too."

Mr Varadkar also expressed concern that the resignation of Theresa May as Conservative leader and Prime Minister could increase the risk of the UK choosing a no-deal Brexit.

He said that there was a possibility that the new Prime Minister could try and revoke the withdrawal agreement.

A number of Brexiteers are in the running to replace Mrs May as party leader.

The Taoiseach addressed the media ahead of an EU Summit of European leaders in Brussels.

"There is growing risk of no deal. There is of course a possibility that there may be a new British government that might follow a different course, a more European course, I can't predict either of those things," Mr Varadkar said.

"But what I can say is the European Union and Ireland will stand firm in our position that there can't be a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland and we need a legal Treaty guarantee of that."

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