Ireland’s premier has said the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) puts the integrity of the “precious union” ahead of everything else, even if it leads to a “lesser world”.
Leo Varadkar said the DUP did not want the “best of both worlds” when it came to a Brexit deal.
Mr Varadkar made the comments ahead of a vote in the Dail asking parliamentarians to approve the draft Brexit deal. The symbolic vote was passed after a four-hour debate.
He told the Irish parliament: “It’s not the best of both worlds that the DUP wants. The DUP holds very firm to this view that the most important thing is the integrity of the UK, the integrity of the precious union, and, if that means a lesser world, that’s acceptable provided that the integrity of the union is upheld.”
The Taoiseach added that the draft agreement reached on the withdrawal of the UK from the EU should not be seen by unionists as a threat to the union.
“It shouldn’t be seen as a threat to the United Kingdom. It shouldn’t be seen as any effort to separate Northern Ireland from Great Britain,” he said.
Mr Varadkar added that it was a “real shame” that the Northern Ireland institutions were not functioning during what he called “this very significant time”.
He described the DUP as a hard-line unionist party, adding they were “not well disposed” to taking advice from Irish governments.
Asked to clarify comments he made last week that in a no-deal scenario it would be difficult to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, Mr Varadkar said “nobody knows for sure” what would happen in a no-deal scenario where the UK crashed out of the European Union without a deal.
In such an event, Mr Varadkar said negotiating teams would have to try to come up with “some agreement around regulations and customs to avoid a hard border”.
“If we had a no deal we’d find ourselves having to find a deal very quickly, so why put our countries and people through that when we have a deal on the table?” he asked.