The Irish Tanaiste met with Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy on Wednesday evening and will hold talks with DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson on Thursday (today). The Northern Ireland Protocol will be a hot topic of discussion, which was part of the divorce deal between the UK and EU that effectively keeps the region in the bloc’s single market for goods. Checks on some goods sent from Britain into the single market have therefore been made and often result in prohibitions on certain products that do not comply with EU rules.
The much-criticised mechanism was implemented to ensure there would be no hard border with Ireland, but it has instead triggered a number of problems as it has effectively placed a trade barrier in the Irish Sea that has proved to be hugely unpopular with unionists.
But Mr Varadkar has come under attack from fierce political rival Sir Jeffrey, who claimed it was actually the former Prime Minister who insisted on such arrangements with the EU.
The DUP leader raged: “A fresh visit from Leo Varadkar to Northern Ireland will be meaningless unless he comes with a fresh approach.
“He has championed a protocol which fundamentally undermines the Belfast Agreement and he has dismissed economic and constitutional concerns with patronising comments about the colour of our post boxes.
“It was Leo Varadkar as the then Taoiseach who insisted on such arrangements with fellow EU leaders.
“If the Irish Sea border remains, then Mr Varadkar will return as Taoiseach with a legacy of relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic fundamentally undermined and political progress in Northern Ireland reversed.”
Sir Jeffrey added: “Mr Varadkar faces a choice. He can continue with the rhetoric of recent years and watch those events unfold or he can adopt a new spirit of positive co-operation.
“Arrangements which respect both the EU single market and Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market are not just achievable but would deliver on the promise of protecting the Belfast Agreement.”
FOLLOW EXPRESS.CO.UK FOR LIVE UPDATES: