‘Little hope’ of Stormont executive reforming

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is believed to have little hope of the Stormont executive being re-established because of a significant lack of trust between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party.

Sources close to the Taoiseach, speaking at the weekend to the Irish Examiner, have said that major gaps between the two sides still exist, despite weeks of talks.

The concerns being voiced come in the wake of the Taoiseach’s visit to Belfast on Friday and is a worrying development amid the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit.

“Leo wouldn’t be overly confident about the executive being re-established. There still is a big gap between the sides and there is little trust,” a source close to Mr Varadkar said.

There is also significant concern within the Taoiseach’s office as to the stance taken by DUP leader Arlene Foster to Brexit, with some saying it is unrealistic.

“Arlene Foster is still talking about a ‘soft’ ‘sensible’ Brexit but at the same time saying that can be achieved while still leaving the customs union and single market which it can’t,” the source said.

Mr Varadkar and his new Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Coveney, have caused controversy in recent weeks by taking a far tougher stance on Brexit.

Dublin’s concerns come as Downing Street sources moved to play down reports that the UK is prepared to pay a divorce bill of up to £36bn/€40bn to try and force progress in stalled Brexit talks with the EU.

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the huge sum is being proposed as the price of leaving the EU in a move to end the deadlock in negotiations.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is keen to move negotiations towards a future trade deal and is expected to give a speech towards the end of the summer fleshing out details of any offer to Brussels.

In addition to this, a series of papers are expected from Downing Street in coming weeks on how the UK proposes to manage a transition.

This comes after sharp complaints from Mr Varadkar as to the lack of clarity from Mrs May as to what shape Brexit will actually take. A Number 10 official was quoted as saying reports that the British Government was preparing to offer the EU payments of €10bn every year for up to three years after Brexit were “highly speculative and wrong”.

Reports yesterday suggested that the UK’s commitment to the ongoing budget payments would then be supplemented with additional money to make up the €40bn figure that UK negotiators hope will break the deadlock in talks.

The paper also quoted a Whitehall source saying: “We know that [the EU’s] position is €60bn, but the actual bottom line is €50bn.

“Ours is closer to €30bn, but the landing zone is €40bn even if the public and politicians are not all there yet.”

British Brexit Secretary David Davis and Mrs May have both said that the Government would work with Brussels to determine a fair settlement of the UK’s “rights and obligations”.

News of the figure will be seen as highly controversial among some hardline anti-EU Conservative MPs who believe the UK should not pay any divorce bill at all.


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