Government categorically denies any role in blocking Brexit deal text from DUP

A spokesperson says the Government has "absolutely no role" in British Government negotiations

Government categorically denies any role in blocking Brexit deal text from DUP

File photo | The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking at the National Conversation on the Future of Europe, 15-11-2017. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

The government has denied it had any role in blocking the DUP from receiving the text of yesterday's draft Brexit agreement.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she only got sight of the draft agreement yesterday morning - and this evening claimed the Irish government had prevented her party from seeing it sooner.

The DUP's last minute intervention scuppered the deal - under which the British Government agreed there would be “continued regulatory alignment” on the island of Ireland following Brexit.

This evening, a spokesperson said the Government had absolutely no role in negotiations conducted by the British Government and as such had no involvement in any decision regarding what documents should be sent to the DUP.

The spokesperson also suggested the Government remains open to changing the wording of the deal - provide it's meaning remains unchanged.

Last minute

Earlier Mrs Foster said her party had asked to see the text on a number of occasions before it landed, “late Monday morning.”

“That left us in a very difficult position,” she said.

"We had to look at the text. We had to understand what the ramifications of what the text was and when we had a chance to do that, we realised that in no way could we sign up to that because, essentially, it was making a red line down the Irish Sea."

The confusion led to a frantic phone call with the British Prime Minister Theresa May minutes before she was due to seal the deal with top EU officials.

Ms Foster said she used the phone call to reiterate the DUPs stance to Mrs May.

When asked why she was propping up a government that appeared not to trust her, she claimed her party was given a number of reasons why they were left out of the loop:

“One of those reasons apparently is because the Irish government would not allow them to share that text,” she said.

“In many ways I can understand that.

“But the important thing is that once we had seen the text, we knew that it would not fly for Northern Ireland, for Scotland - because once you start separating parts of the UK out then it has ramifications in other places as well.”

Hard border

Speaking in the Dáil earlier today, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar acknowledged the considerable work done to seek an agreement in recent weeks, adding that he does “very much regret” that a deal was not reached yesterday.

He again noted that Ireland is eager to move on to discussions on Britain’s future trading relationship with the EU.

He warned however that the negotiations cannot move forward until the British Government provides the “assurances we have been promised for 18 months or even longer” that there will be no return to a hard border.

He said he understands that the British Prime Minister Theresa May is managing many difficulties in Westminster but noted that “as things stand, the ball is very much in London's court.”

He said that as the European Council does not meet until Thursday December 14th there is still time to put the agreement back on track.

DUP anger

Earlier the DUP’s leader in Westminster Nigel Dodds claimed the Irish government's attempts to avoid a hard border were in danger of backfiring:

“By continuing its aggressive stance, they are in danger of delivering for themselves the very outcomes that they say they want to avoid,” he said.

Good Friday Agreement

Mr Varadkar said the Irish Government respects the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.

“We have no hidden agenda,” he said. “We respect the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, which is that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom until a majority of people in Northern Ireland say otherwise.”

“Our aim has always been a practical one, which is to allow people to live their lives and carry out their business in the normal way in which they have done it for 20 years now.  

“I refer to cross-Border workers, people involved in business, traders, exporters, and students living in one jurisdiction and studying and the other.

“That has always been our objective.  

“We were against Brexit in the first place because of the risk of the disruption that could be caused by it and the imposition of the Border.”

He noted that there are many political parties in Northern Ireland and said the Irish Government will listen to, respect and engage with all political parties in Northern Ireland.”