Brexit talks: Sticking up a symbolic two fingers to those saying no

Leo Varadkar has given a symbolic two fingers to unionists who are trying to scupper the pact, writes Juno McEnroe

After a huge political victory this week in securing a Brexit deal for a frictionless border, Leo Varadkar has given a symbolic two fingers to unionists who are trying to scupper the pact.

Hard-line Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) members ramped up attacks on the Taoiseach in Westminster yesterday.

However, it is clear their slap-down of the border deal is tantamount to theatre.

The ultimate threat by Arlene Foster and her DUP rebels is a fresh British general election if they pull their support for the Tory government, which would quite possibly return a Labour-led administration in London with not a sniff of power for unionists. Is Ms Foster willing to try her luck?

All eyes are on London and Belfast after the shambles of the collapsed deal to align regulations north and south of the border, which saw British prime minister Theresa May must bring the DUP back on board if she is to successfully move Brexit talks onto a new trade deal.

"By yesterday, it was certainly a case of Ulster Saying No again after 30 years. DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds launched an attack on Dublin, accusing Leinster House politicians of “disgraceful” behaviour and saying that Dublin had “damaged” Anglo-Irish relations.

Senior Government sources are ruling out direct intervention in the row, which will come down to how Ms May gets the DUP onside and agreeing to a deal to move onto the trade talks.

“They’ve [the DUP] no love for Dublin. There will be no back channels,” said an informed source.

There has been huge praise for Mr Varadkar both here and abroad, for finally cracking the Brexit border nut. Scotland, Wales, and London all piled in at the sign of a ‘soft’ Brexit this week and basically said they wanted it too.

The Taoiseach is standing his ground. There will be no change to the deal. And, amid a rare show of solidarity from other party leaders in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Varadkar delivered a robust criticism of the DUP’s stance.

He noted concerns from nationalists and, in a clear dig at the DUP, added: “We recognise that there is not just one political party in Northern Ireland; there are many there.”

Furthermore, he looked beyond the DUP concerns and delivered the fact that “perhaps if the Northern Ireland Assembly was meeting today it might even pass a resolution in favour of what was agreed”.

He then delivered the knock-out blow the DUP must face up to eventually: “I believe, and this is the most important thing, that the majority of people in Northern Ireland, if they were asked, would like to have this agreement.”

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