Latest: Varadkar statement on Brexit 'untimely and unhelpful', says DUP

Update 9.46pm: The Democratic Unionist Party have hit out at any suggestion of a post-Brexit sea border with the UK.

They were responding to comments earlier today from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who declared his opposition to creating such a frontier during a robust intervention in Dublin, saying that the onus was on the British government to say how it would work.

The DUP's leader in the Commons, Nigel Dodds, said such a move would be unacceptable to the DUP, which the Prime Minister relies on to prop up her minority administration in the House of Commons.

A sea border "may give the Republic of Ireland a special economic status within Northern Ireland but the heavy price would be new barriers to trade in the UK" for Northern Irish firms.

He said: "This apparent hardening of attitudes within the Irish Government is untimely and unhelpful.

"The DUP will not tolerate a border on the Irish Sea after Brexit that makes it more difficult to live, work and travel between different parts of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has already reiterated this.

"At Westminster we will continue to use the influence of our 10 MPs to ensure that respect for the integrity of the UK remains at the core of the negotiations process."

Former DUP David Trimble warned that Dublin is in danger of undermining the Good Friday Agreement following a spat over the border after Brexit.

He also denied that Ireland is pushing for any potential border to run along the Irish sea - which would mean customs checks between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Mr Trimble said that Leo Varadkar should "go away and calm down".

"By raising this suggestion, then this will do enormous damage to the relationships between Belfast and Dublin, which have been quite cordial since the agreement," he said.

"But if Dublin starts to undermine the essential constitutional basis which is the heart of that agreement, then they are doing themselves a great disservice."

Earlier:

Update 6.21pm: Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Brexit Stephen Donnelly has said that any border with Northern Ireland – either physical or electronic – must be avoided in the interests of all of the people living on the island of Ireland.

Responding to Government proposals to move the border to the Irish Sea, Deputy Donnelly said: “The solution which Minister Coveney, and now the Taoiseach, has outlined is something which Fianna Fáil has been calling for for some time.

“In February I, along with Micheál Martin and Darragh O’Brien, met with the Northern Secretary James Brokenshire and outlined to him that a frictionless border simply wouldn’t work and the border between Ireland and the UK should be the Irish Sea.

He added: “The best solution is that the UK remains in the single market and the customs union. While we recognise that the UK government does not share that position, we strongly believe that that option must be kept on the table, with every effort being made by the EU to accommodate that outcome.

“Options including moving the border to the Irish Sea and the creation of a special economic zone for Northern Ireland with ongoing links to the EU must be explored in detail”.

Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy accused the Irish Government of being too passive in its approach to Brexit and the implications for Ireland.

“The Irish Government must be proactive on this issue, which is now the most important challenge facing the island of Ireland,” he said.

"They are being far too passive on this issue and suggesting that the British take the lead is an abdication of responsibility.

“The Government’s refusal to support special designated status within the EU for the North underlines this passive approach.

"Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney need to robustly defend the democratic decision of people in the North to remain within the EU.

“They also need to defend the island economy and welfare of our citizens.

"The implications from Brexit for jobs and investment for the island as a whole and especially for the border region and the North are huge.

"It is crucial that the whole island remains within the Single Market and the Customs Union.

“Designated special status for the North within the EU offers is the best way to meet these challenges.

"The majority of TDs and the majority of MLAs in the North support special designated status.

"The Irish Government needs now to pursue this objective at EU level.”

Earlier:

Update 3pm: The Taoiseach has put it up to the UK by stating the Irish Government is "not going design a border for the Brexiteers", writes Elaine Loughlin, Political Reporter

Leo Varadkar has strongly laid down Ireland's position claiming that an economic border would be bad for both the Republic and Northern Ireland and if Theresa May's Government wish to go down that route it will be "up to them".

"What we are not going to do is design a border for the Brexiteers. They are the ones who want a border, it is up to them to say what it is, to say how it would work and to first of all convince their own people, their own voters, that this is actually a good idea.

"We’re not going to be helping them to design some sort of border that we don’t believe should exist in the first place."

During a wide-ranging media briefing, Mr Varadkar said he hoped his comments would not ignite an angry response but added that "if anyone is angry it should be us".

"It is the British and the Brexiteers who are leaving, so if anyone should be angry it’s us quite frankly.

He added: "But we’re not going to get angry. We are going to try and find solutions that will benefit or at least minimise the damage to relations between Britain and Ireland, to the peace process and to trading links."

The Taoiseach's comments came after Foreign Affairs Minister SImon Coveney suggested that the Irish Sea effectively become the border with the UK after Brexit.

Mr Varadkar said he was "absolutely on the same page when it come to this issue".

Update 2pm: Theresa May's Democratic Unionist Party allies have dismissed any suggestion the Irish Sea can effectively become the border with the UK after Brexit.

The DUP's leader in the Commons, Nigel Dodds, said the party could not tolerate such a move, adding that the Prime Minister had "already reiterated this".

The Irish government is unconvinced by the UK's plans to use technology to maintain the soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic - which will become the frontier with the European Union after Brexit.

Minister Simon Coveney said the country "can't support proposals resulting in border checkpoints", adding that it was a UK decision to leave the EU and "we need imaginative solutions".

Dublin's preferred option is for customs and immigration checks to be located away from the land border and at ports and airports instead, according to recent reports.

But Mr Dodds said such a move would be unacceptable to the DUP, which the British Prime Minister relies on to prop up her minority administration in the House of Commons.

A sea border "may give the Republic of Ireland a special economic status within Northern Ireland but the heavy price would be new barriers to trade in the UK" for Northern Irish firms.

He said: "This apparent hardening of attitudes within the Irish Government is untimely and unhelpful.

"The DUP will not tolerate a border on the Irish Sea after Brexit that makes it more difficult to live, work and travel between different parts of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has already reiterated this.

"At Westminster we will continue to use the influence of our 10 MPs to ensure that respect for the integrity of the UK remains at the core of the negotiations process."

Blaming the row on domestic politics in the Republic of Ireland, he said: "I would strongly urge the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, to rethink his current stance, stop playing to his own audience, and approach all of these issues with a new spirit of co-operation."

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said demanded clarification from Dublin: "If this is their position, then it causes a major threat to the Belfast Agreement and would pull it asunder.

"Such an arrangement would totally undermine the principle of consent."

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.

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

However, sources have told The Times that Mr Varadkar thinks these plans could jeopardise the peace process and restrict movement between the two countries.

He is said to want customs and immigration checks moved away from the land border to ports and airports - effectively drawing a new border in the Irish Sea.

Brexit Secretary David Davis has acknowledged that "flexible and imaginative" measures will be needed to resolve the Northern Ireland problem although he has previously told MPs when asked about an Irish Sea border that "I don't see that would be the solution, to be honest".

Speaking to the Press Association earlier this week, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire insisted that "technology does have a role to play" in the future border arrangements.

He said it was important to view "the trading agreements as well as technology as a combined package together as to how we get that constructive agreement that does achieve what we want to achieve - which is that frictionless border between Northern Ireland and Ireland to ensure that we do not see the return to the hard borders of the past".

Update 11.26am Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said it would not be possible to place the border in the Irish Sea.

"At some stages I've said that but it has always been tongue in cheek.

"Firstly you would have to get an agreement by all parties and I do not see unionists parties ever agreeing to that suggestions."

Earlier: Theresa May's Democratic Unionist Party allies have ruled out accepting a suggestion from Dublin which would see the Irish Sea effectively become the border with the UK after Brexit.

The new Irish government under Leo Varadkar is unconvinced by the UK's plans to use technology to maintain the soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic - which will become the frontier with the European Union after Brexit.

Dublin's preferred option is for customs and immigration checks to be located away from the land border and at ports and airports instead, according to The Times.

But such a move would be unacceptable to the DUP, which the Prime Minister relies on to prop up her minority administration in the House of Commons.

DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: "There is no way that the DUP would go for an option that creates a border between one part of the United Kingdom and the other."

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Dublin really needs to understand that that proposition is absurd and unconstitutional."

DUP MP Ian Paisley said Dublin's position appeared to leave two alternatives - a "very hard border" or that "Ireland will wise up and leave the EU" itself.

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.

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

However, sources have told The Times that Mr Varadkar thinks these plans could jeopardise the peace process in Ireland and restrict movement between the two countries.

He is said to want customs and immigration checks moved away from the land border to ports and airports - effectively drawing a new border in the Irish Sea.

David Davis

Brexit Secretary David Davis has acknowledged that "flexible and imaginative solutions" will be needed to resolve issues around Northern Ireland although he has previously told MPs when asked about an Irish Sea border that "I don't see that would be the solution, to be honest".

Speaking to the Press Association earlier this week, Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire insisted that "technology does have a role to play" in the future border arrangements.

He said it was important to view "the trading agreements as well as technology as a combined package together as to how we get that constructive agreement that does achieve what we want to achieve - which is that frictionless border between Northern Ireland and Ireland to ensure that we do not see the return to the hard borders of the past".

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson said moving the border to the middle of the Irish Sea would be totally unacceptable.

"The Irish Government need to make a very clear public statement on their position regarding border arrangements post-Brexit.

"If this is their position, then it causes a major threat to the Belfast Agreement and would pull it asunder.

"Such an arrangement would totally undermine the principle of consent."


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