Europe

DUP 'politically impotent' over Brexit, says Fine Gael senator

Leo Varadkar Image copyright PA
Image caption Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar has said he will not design a border for Brexiteers

An Irish government party senator has accused the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of "political impotence".

Neale Richmond said Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar was right to criticise the UK's approach to Brexit negotiations.

Last week, Mr Varadkar said his government would not design a border for Brexiteers.

He said the government did not want to see an economic border on the island of Ireland when the UK leaves the EU.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Finding a solution to the Irish border issue is one of the main challenges of Brexit

A Times newspaper report suggested the Irish government preferred a sea border.

The DUP described the suggestion as "madness".

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "That's just not going to happen.

"There is no way that the DUP would go for an option that put a border between one part of the UK and another.

Image caption Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said a sea border was "not going to happen"

"That would be a bit like saying we're going to create a border between California and the rest of the USA.

"I think what Dublin needs to think about is innovative ways in which it can move its market closer to the UK."

Mr Richmond, who speaks for his party on European Union affairs, said there had been no evidence of DUP influence on the UK government over Brexit.

"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," he said.

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy claimed the DUP privately acknowledges Brexit will be an "economic disaster" for Ireland.

Defending Mr Varadkar's comments, the MLA for Newry and Armagh said: "Quite clearly the Irish government and the taoiseach have to defend the interests of the Irish people, and we look to them to defend the interests of Irish citizens who live in this part of Ireland as well.

"So the DUP can hardly criticise others when they are acting against the interests and wishes of the vast majority of people on this island."

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney denied the Times sea border report.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Simon Coveney said there was no proposal for a sea border

Mr Coveney told Irish national broadcaster RTÉ: "There is no proposal that is suggesting that there be a border in the Irish Sea."

The foreign minister said the onus was on the UK to "come up with imaginative and if necessary unique solutions" to avoiding a so-called hard border.

In the 2016 referendum, the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU but in Northern Ireland, 56% of the electorate voted to remain.

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