Fine Gael accused of having ‘a poke in the eye for unionists’

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.

Fine Gael accused of having ‘a poke in the eye for unionists’

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 at the weekend’s ard fheis told ministers during a debate on the North that a bad deal would be “catastrophic” for all concerned.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robert Swann said 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, the Irish Government needed to “change its tactics”.

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

Mr Swann said he would “urge caution” following Mr Varadkar assertion that there is no other deal on the table, and his proclamation that the proposed agreement outlined last week was “one of the better days in politics”.

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.

He said 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.

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 Government did not 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.

During the conference, Mr Varadkar told reporters he did not think that there was room for negotiation over the draft withdrawal agreement.

He said he would “not go into hypotheticals” in relation to the draft treaty not being passed at Westminster.

Mr Varadkar said in relation to a no deal scenario, that Britain would try to join the World Trade Organisation, but they would still have to come to a deal if there was no deal.

He added: “We could end up where we are now.”

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on
www.irishexaminer.com/podcasts

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence