Sinn Fein: If Tories prioritise DUP over people, Ireland should use Brexit veto

PUBLISHED: 17:08 01 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:09 01 December 2017

Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill

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Ireland should use its veto on Brexit negotiations if the DUP attempts to use its Westminster influence to impose a new border on the island, Sinn Fein has said.

A senior Democratic Unionist has warned the Conservative Government will not be able to rely his party's votes in Parliament for any Brexit deal that treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK.

Sinn Fein is seeking designated special status for Northern Ireland to remain within the EU. If that means divergence from the rest of the UK it will be toxic for unionists.

The DUP has not called for a hard border to be reimposed in Ireland and has supported close cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic after withdrawal.

Sinn Fein's Northern Ireland leader Michelle O'Neill said of the DUP's views: "Do not represent the business sector, the agri-food sector or the very many other interests who are deeply concerned about the impact of Brexit on our economy and communities across the island.

"If there is any suggestion, as Arlene Foster and [East Antrim MP] Sammy Wilson are inferring, that they will use the DUP's partnership with the Tories to influence the Brexit negotiations and impose a new frontier on Ireland, then there is an onus on the Taoiseach to act accordingly.

"The Dublin Government has maximum leverage as we approach the critical European Council summit in two weeks' time. The Taoiseach has the power to veto the negotiations from moving to the next stage.

"If there is any attempt by the Tories to prioritise the DUP's ideologically-driven position over the needs of the people here, then the Taoiseach should use that veto."

The DUP's 10 pro-Brexit MPs are propping up Theresa May's minority government on key votes.

Mr Wilson's intervention earlier this week came amid pressure from Dublin for the UK to agree a special arrangement under which Northern Ireland would continue to observe the rules of the EU's customs union to avoid a hard border with the Republic.

Border issues appear to be the biggest remaining obstacle to a green light for talks on post-Brexit trade at an EU summit this month, after reports that the UK has agreed the broad terms of a financial settlement which would see it pay up to £50bn over a number of years.

London and Dublin have voiced their determination to avoid a return to checkpoints and border posts between Northern Ireland and the Republic, but Irish agriculture minister Michael Creed said no solutions had been offered by the UK Government.

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