Mike Nesbitt said Arlene Foster might be 'feeding the crocodile' in supporting Peter Robinson
FORMER Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has cautioned DUP leader Arlene Foster about her public support for Peter Robinson.
Mike Nesbitt was responding to comments made by Mr Robinson about how the north should prepare for a united Ireland.
An apparent rift between two former DUP colleagues over a potential border poll appeared to have deepened last week.
East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson hit back at former party leader Mr Robinson's claims that his unionist critics were guilty of "crass folly" for failing to make preparations for a possible poll.
The ex-first minister wrote in an article for the Belfast Telegraph that his detractors "have not just buried their heads in the sand - only the soles of their feet are visible above the surface".
Now, Mr Nesbitt said that Mr Robinson was cautioning against a border poll being run in the same manner as the 2016 Brexit referendum.
"As leader of the Ulster Unionists, I argued we should take the position that Northern Ireland was better off staying within the EU, but I also said I was prepared to be persuaded to support Leave, if anyone could describe what Brexit would look like. No one did and 774 days later, confusion and uncertainty are the bywords," he said.
"Yet in 2018, he rails against the provisions for a border poll: it should not have been negotiated in the first place; it should not be left to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to decide to call one; it should not be possible to hold one every seven years after the first; there should be a role for locally elected representatives in the event of a negative outcome."
Arlene Foster 'read Peter Robinson's article before publication'
Following Mr Robinson's latest comments, a DUP spokesperson denied there was any tension between Arlene Foster and her predecessor, saying she had seen the article prior to publication.
However, Mr Nesbitt warned the former DUP leader might be paving his path for a return to politics.
"Peter Robinson boasted that the assembly and executive of 2007 was the first Stormont administration to go full term since the 1960s", Mr Nesbitt said.
"He spoke for the DUP in those days and who knows, maybe he will speak for the party again.
"Peter Robinson denies he sees himself as the white knight to put the political pieces back together again, but he is a politician who knows you never say never.
"Arlene Foster is publicly supportive of her former boss. She might exercise caution in her praise."