Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is set to face criticism over Ireland’s post-Brexit border stance when he travels North this week following his insistence that Ireland will not stand for a divide on the island.
Tensions between Dublin and unionists, as well as with London, are escalating over Brexit, while power-sharing still remains unresolved in the North.
Mr Varadkar will meet different parties, including unionists, when he travels to Belfast for two days this week, his first visit there since becoming Taoiseach.
His remarks last week, that Ireland would not help devise a border for Brexiteers, was deemed an “outburst” by Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds yesterday.
Mr Dodds claimed there were “incoherent positions” coming from Dublin on Brexit. Tensions between Dublin and the DUP are also likely to be heightened after Fine Gael senator Neale Richmond said that “the DUP’s whinging doesn’t hide their political impotence”.
“They would be far better off seeking to influence their government partners in Westminster and working to get the executive back up and running to give Northern Ireland a strong voice,” said Mr Richmond.
“It is therefore highly frustrating to see the embattled DUP giving out about the honesty of the Irish Government when they’ve done nothing to progress Northern Ireland’s position in the Brexit conversation despite having ample opportunities to do so.”
Speaking in Waterford yesterday, Mr Varadkar said he still hopes Britain will pull back from the Brexit precipice and stay in the EU. Part of his remit was to “keep the door open” for our neighbours, he said.
Mr Varadkar said the best outcome for Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Britain is to avoid any north-south border on this island or east-west border between the two islands.
Mr Varadkar said he still hopes Brexit would actually not go ahead.
“Brexit is a British policy, not an Irish one,” he said. “It’s the United Kingdom that’s decided to leave and, as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to my work in Brussels, working with other European prime ministers and presidents, it’s part of my remit to keep the door open, not just to the European Union but also to the single market and also to the customs union should they decide to go down that route and that, I think, would be the best outcome for Ireland and Northern Ireland and Britain.”
Mr Varadkar’s Brexit negotiations and efforts to help reinstate power-sharing in the North will be complicated by further developments.
British prime minister Theresa May yesterday said that free movement of people from the EU into Britain would end by 2019, a situation which has now provoked fears of no transitional period for talks and a so-called cliff-edge scenario.
Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly said such a scenario would mean an end to Britain in the single market and result in flight and ship movement restrictions and costly tariffs on Irish goods.
Following the statement from Downing Street, Mr Donnelly claimed this was potentially “really bad news for Ireland”.
The end to free movement in 2019 and therefore the reciprocal end to Britain’s customs and single market benefits would see a lot of planes not taking off, ships stopping, and fresh tariffs of up to 50% on food products, warned Mr Donnelly. “It is about as serious as it gets,” he told RTÉ.
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