Belfast Telegraph

DUP lashes out at 'embarrassing' UK Government in Brexit talks as Barnier pledges to protect peace in Ireland

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

The DUP has lashed out at the UK Government - which it helps to keep in power - labelling the Brexit talks an embarrassment and a catastrophic failure saying it has allowed itself to be "outmanoeuvred" by Brussels.

Diane Dodds said the millions that voted to leave the EU had been let down.

She also said the words of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Michel Barnier, who was in Dublin on Monday, "rang hollow when compared to their obsession with a backstop which would be offensive to unionists and fundamentally undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom".

"Their actions and determination to foist a bad deal for the Union on the United Kingdom betray the words being uttered by their lips," she said.

Brexit negotiator Barnier following his visit in Dublin, said the goal of the of the EU was to protect peace in Ireland and the single market. He said even in the event of a no-deal there could not be trade talks until a solution was found to the border. EU leaders are to meet on Wednesday to discuss a further extension request from Theresa May.

“One thing is for certain, whatever happens, the EU will stand fully behind Ireland,” he said.

Time and again opportunities have been missed, leverage has been gifted away and the EU chief negotiator seems to be calling the shots. Diane Dodds

MEP Dodds was scathing on the role of the UK Government in the Brexit process.

“The United Kingdom should have already exited the EU but due to ineffectiveness in London and intransigence in Dublin and Brussels, the people who voted 'Leave' almost three years ago have been let down," she added.

"The confusion and chaos being endured by the public at the moment is the result of a catastrophic failure by the Government to handle the exit negotiations in a proper manner. The negotiations have been an embarrassment for the fifth largest economy of the world.

"Time and again opportunities have been missed, leverage has been gifted away and the EU chief negotiator seems to be calling the shots."

She continued: "The Government should have heeded the DUP’s warnings in December 2017.  No one was ever building a new hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.  Yet the Government was outmanoeuvred by Brussels."

Following the hung parliament result from the 2017 General Election the DUP and Tories brokered a confidence and supply deal in order to allow Theresa May to form a government. It means the DUP supports the Government on all major matters, including Brexit.

Together they currently hold a working majority of just four votes. The DUP denied being sidestepped when Theresa May began talks to the Labour party in order to get her withdrawal agreement passed by parliament last week.

An embarrassment for the fifth largest economy of the world. Diane Dodds

Speaking during a visit to Dublin on Monday, Michel Barnier said the EU will stand fully behind Ireland, and the EU’s 27 member states would remain fully united.

“If the UK were to leave the EU without a deal we would not discuss anything with the UK until there is an agreement for Ireland and Northern Ireland as well as for citizens’ rights and the financial settlement,” Mr Barnier said.

“You have our full support and, I have said before, the backstop is currently the only solution we have found to maintain the status quo on the island of Ireland.”

Mr Barnier expressed confidence a solution would be found on how to protect the Good Friday Agreement all-Ireland structures as well as the integrity of the single market.

Should no deal arise, it will be a shared challenge. Leo Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed confidence that the EU27 would reach agreement at Wednesday’s European Council meeting of leaders.

He reiterated that, although he wishes to see a deal ratified, contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit has intensified in Ireland, and that Ireland would be open to an extension.

Mr Varadkar added: “A no-deal Brexit would be damaging for everyone. For the United Kingdom, Ireland and the European Union.

“We also exchanged views on the length of an extension and I look forward to discussing this further with my EU counterparts at the EU Council.

“There will, of course, be different views, but I am confident we will reach agreement.

“However given the ongoing uncertainty we need to continue our preparations for a no-deal and that is exactly what we are doing.

“We also discussed in the case of a no-deal how best to meet our shared objectives, of protecting the Good Friday Agreement on which our peace is founded and also protecting the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union.”

He added: “Should no deal arise, it will be a shared challenge.”

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