THE DUP leader, Arlene Foster, has criticised the Irish Government’s tactics in Brexit negotiations. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Foster specifically spoke about the implications of a 'hard border', and the need for progress across all Brexit negotiations in order to break the impasse.
She told BBC presenter Mishal Husain: ““It is wrong that the Irish government will not allow the process to move forward until they have certain things they demand. I have always felt it very difficult to have an agreement in relation to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but we haven’t moved to the next stage to talk about trade.”
Ms Foster has already accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of political blackmail in relation to Brexit, and amplified on the point on Today, saying: “You can’t have it both ways. Leo Varadkar is saying he won’t allow the discussions to move to the next stage, to talk about trade, until he has had a commitment in relation to the Irish border. You cannot have it in that fashion. We want to move to the next stage.”
Ms Foster was also scathing of recent comments by US diplomat Richard Haass, who chaired political talks in the North in 2013. Mr Haass this week tweeted: “Northern Ireland at a crisis point, the result of poor leadership, Brexit, & a failure to deal with the past. Agree that the current impasse likely to lead to restructuring of its politics and/or push for Irish unification. Hoping it does not lead to any resumption of violence.”
The US diplomat also added that it would be difficult for the British Government to be an honest broker in the current Stormont imbroglio as it was ‘wedded’ to the DUP. Ms Foster dismissed this suggestion. The DUP leader, whose party backs the British government in return for extra funding for the North of Ireland, said his comments were wrong. She added: “It shows that sometimes when independent people are brought in they are sometimes not very independent.” She reiterated that she thought he was “not an impartial voice, not at all”.
Ms Foster emphasised to Mishal Husain that the DUP was committed and working towards the restoration of power-sharing. “Just because we exert a level of influence in London, it is not mutually exclusive to have an administration in Belfast. In fact, I would say the two are complimentary. And that’s why we have been pushing to bring about devolution and will continue to do so,” she said.