DUP leader rejects Varadkar's "unhelpful" comments on Brexit

Leo Varadkar will this week make his first visit to the North since his confirmation as Taoiseach

DUP leader rejects Varadkar's "unhelpful" comments on Brexit

Arlene Foster following a meeting with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin, 16-06-2017. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

The DUP leader has accused the Taoiseach of disrespecting the will of the British people by expressing hope that Brexit will not happen.

Arlene Foster this afternoon insisted that Leo Varadkar must accept that Brexit is going ahead - and called on the Irish Government to continue working with the North and Britain to ensure the best outcome for all sides:

"Of course Brexit is going to happen," she said. "We are leaving the European Union."

"I just hope that Republic of Ireland will continue - as they have been doing - to work constructively with us in Northern Ireland and indeed with the rest of the United Kingdom as well because it is very much in their interest to have a Brexit that works for them as well as a Brexit that works for the United Kingdom."

Mr Varadkar will visit the north for the first time since his confirmation as Taoiseach later this week.

Mrs Foster said she was looking forward to the meeting but insisted the Taoiseach's stance on the Irish border was "not helpful."

Economic border

It comes after the Taoiseach insisted Ireland would not help UK Brexiteers design an economic border in Ireland.

He said Ireland will not help to design a border it does not want.

"If they want to put forward solutions - smart solutions, technological solutions, borders of the future and all of that - that's up to them," he said.

"We're not going to be doing that work for them, because we don't think there should be an economic border at all.

"So let them put forward their proposals as to how they think a border should operate, and then we'll ask them if they really think this is such a good idea because I think it'll have a very severe impact on their economy if they decide to go down that route."

Mrs Foster this afternoon called on the Irish government to "reflect on whether they are being helpful to the process here in Northern Ireland or not."

She accused Mr Varadkar of engaging in "megaphone diplomacy" and urged all sides to work towards a Brexit that works for everybody.

Stormont talks

Mrs Foster went on to accuse Sinn Féin of showing no willingness to break the political deadlock in Stormont.

Talks on power-sharing in the north are due to get back underway at the end of August - after they ended in deadlock in July.

"There is no spirit of compromise," she said. "There is no willingness to build a shared future for all of the people of Northern Ireland."

"It is their way or no way.

"I hope that they reflect on that because devolution is good for everybody in Northern Ireland  and we want to see it happening.

"But of course [...] it takes two to make this work and if they don't want to make it work then we will have to move on to a different situation."

The Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams was quick to rubbish Mrs Foster's take on the deadlock insisting that Sinn Féin's commitment to negotiations is "there for all to see."

“You could write a thesis on Arlene’s remarks this morning," he said. "She starts off by saying that the talks will begin again in earnest in August. I presumed, until now that because we were there, that the talks were in earnest."

“When you boil all of this down the big question which no unionist leader has been able to get away from, is whether unionism, or at least its leaderships is prepared to embrace a new dispensation in which everyone’s rights are respected and actively promoted and defended - or whether they want to cling to the remnants of the old unionist way of doing things.

The Taoiseach will meet with Northern leaders on Friday before taking part in the Belfast Gay Pride event on Saturday morning.