UUP: Fine Gael having a 'poke in the eye of unionists' with Brexit remarks

UUP: Fine Gael having a 'poke in the eye of unionists' with Brexit remarks
Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann.

Fine Gael has been accused of having a “poke in the eye of unionists” after the party's outspoken support for the Brexit withdrawal deal.

Unionists visited the Fine Gael Ard Fheis this weekend and told ministers in a debate on the North that a bad deal would be “catastrophic” for all concerned.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann told a room of Fine Gael delegates that nobody wanted to see new infrastructure along the border.

However, a border along the sea for the North would be a “direct challenge” to the Good Friday Agreement, he claimed.

Unionists, including the UUP and DUP, are concerned that trade rules and regulatory alignment will be different for the North and the rest of Britain.

Mr Swann said that, given it was very unlikely the current deal before the Tory-led administration in London would progress, that the Irish government needed to “change its tactics”.

The “aggressive stance” now being taken, claimed Mr Swann, “could lead to consequences in the future”.

He said he would “urge caution” with the soundbites

Mr Varadkar has said there is no other deal on the table and that the proposed agreement when it emerged last week was “one of the better days in politics”.

But Mr Swann told Fine Gael ministers a bad deal would be “catastrophic for us all” and it was now time for “sensible restraint and common prudence”.

He said unionists were also tired of being portrayed as "snide" or "obnoxious".

Furthermore, recent remarks by Fine Gael figures over the draft text of the withdrawal deal were a “poke in the eye” of Unionists, a suggestion to “suck it up” over the backstop, he claimed.

Nonetheless, Business Minister Heather Humphreys defended the draft deal and said it would give the North a status akin to Hong Kong, allowing the province to trade with both the EU and Britain.

Education Minister Joe McHugh also agreed with the UUP leader that the Irish government did want to see a border along the Irish Sea with Brexit.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan also agreed on the call for cautious remarks over Brexit.

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