Brexit

Nigel Dodds slams Leo Varadkar over Brexit red post box comments

Nigel Dodds (left) was critical of Leo Varadkar's remarks over red letterboxes 

DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds has criticised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for saying people in the north will still be able to post letters in red post boxes after Brexit.

Mr Varadkar was speaking today about the DUP's refusal to back the British government's Brexit deal over "customs and consent issues and there is a lack of clarity on VAT".

"The fact that there may be differences between Great Britain and Northern Ireland doesn't undermine the constitutional position of Northern Ireland in my view," he said.

"It's been the case for 100 years now that Northern Ireland has its own legal system, has a different education system, has lots of different laws, lots of different rules form the rest of the UK, and that's a reflection of devolution and autonomy, and doesn't change the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.

"So if this agreement is ratified, and if it is fully implemented, the Queen will still be the Queen, the pound will still be the pound, people will still post letters in Royal Mail red letterboxes."

In a statement, Mr Dodds said: "If Leo Varadkar thinks unionism is just about red post boxes then he is either very ill-informed or else just wishes to be offensive.

"Of course we will still use sterling and Her Majesty the Queen will be our head of state, but a new trade barrier will have been erected between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom without the consent of anyone who lives here.

"Trade borders have always run to the core of any nation. Customs duties are collected at the border.

"Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, therefore there should be unfettered trade within the boundaries of the United Kingdom.

"More bureaucracy for trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland will potentially increase costs for consumers and ultimately reduce choice for consumers also."

Mr Varadkar aslso said today that although the Republic would be open to an extension for Britain, plan B is no-deal.

"Plan B is no-deal, and we're all preparing for that, and we've all been preparing for that since the referendum, but let's hope that doesn't happen," he said.

"Bear in mind this has to be ratified by both the House of Commons and European Parliament, we can be pretty confident it will be ratified in the European Parliament - the House of Commons, we'll see over the next couple of days.

"If the House of Commons does vote yes, that will put us in a position to stand down our no-deal preparations, but we won't stop them entirely as there is always an outside chance something could go wrong, so we could stand them down but not abandon them."

Asked if Thursday's deal is the last offer from the EU, Mr Varadkar replied: "It is.

"I cannot see the European Union coming back again for another set of negotiations, I really can't.

"I think the EU has been really responsible over the past couple of years.

"We deeply regret the decision of the UK to leave. We've never tried to hold the UK in the EU, as some people have suggested in the past.

"I'm not going to make any predictions about what's going to happen on Saturday, because I don't know.

"It's really in the hands now of MPs and I just hope they'll consider the matter and decide what they believe is best for their country.

"The position that we have agreed as the European Council is that, as things stand, there is no request from the UK for an extension.

"If for some reason a request came, then Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, would consult individually with all the European leaders to see if we would agree to such a request."

Mr Varadkar added that he had hoped the DUP might agree to the deal in the days before the EU summit, but said although they have rejected Mr Johnson's proposals, he is conscious that they do not speak for everyone in Northern Ireland.

"At various points, you know, I hoped it would be possible for them to come on board, but ultimately they made the decision that they did, I have to respect that," he said.

"They're a political party and they have a right to make their own decisions and decide what they think is best, but I'm also conscious that there are other parties in Northern Ireland too, and we should never lose sight of that.

"There's more than one political party in Northern Ireland, and even beyond parties it's been important to us that we listen to the voice of business, of civil society, of farmers, and I think if we listen to all those voices, both this deal and the previous were met with majority support in Northern Ireland, and that's always been crucial for us.

"What I'd say to unionists is that the Good Friday Agreement assures the constitutional position of Northern Ireland."

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