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Tuesday 12 December 2017

Foster's claims of Brexit stitch-up 'utterly untrue', says Government

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster

The Government has hit back at DUP leader Arlene Foster's claims that it told the British government to block her party from seeing the agreed text on the Irish border.

A senior government source said Ms Foster's accusation was "utterly untrue".

In a day of bitter claim and counter-claim, Ms Foster warned Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that he can be as "unequivocal as he like likes" about the border dispute because the DUP is "equally unequivocal".

Last night, a senior government source said Ms Foster "set out to villainise" the Taoiseach and Tanaiste Simon Coveney with statements that were "utterly untrue".

The claim that Dublin blocked British prime minister Theresa May from showing the DUP an agreed text on the border has been dismissed as "farcical".

"That would be like Theresa May saying, 'Don't show this to Shane Ross'," said a senior government source.

Despite a massive backlash from some British politicians, the Taoiseach is refusing to give an inch, amid concerns that Ms May will not be able to get the deal back on track.

"We have concrete evidence of an agreement between the Taoiseach and the prime minister, which was endorsed by the presidents of the European Council and the European Commission," said a source central to the Irish negotiation team.

Aggressive

"There's no complacency here but we absolutely feel we can't budge an inch."

Mr Varadkar was the target of heavy criticism from pro-Brexit politicians in the UK yesterday.

Meanwhile, Ms Foster launched a scathing attack on Mr Coveney, describing the Tanaiste as "quite aggressive".

She pointed to a statement he made last week where said he would like to see a united Ireland "in my political lifetime".

"Simon thinks it's OK to speak about an Irish language Act and it's quite OK to say, 'I want a united Ireland and it's going to happen in my political lifetime', so it goes both ways," said Ms Foster.

With relations rapidly deteriorating, a spokesman for Mr Varadkar gave a "categorical denial" that he told London not to show the text of a draft deal to the DUP.

Asked if there were concerns that London may have tried to blame Dublin for the fiasco, the spokesman said the issue would "almost certainly" be discussed with the EU Taskforce.

However, he added that Ireland wants to "give London time and space" to resolve the impasse with the DUP.

Another source in Dublin rejected any attempt by UK politicians to blame Dublin for delaying the Brexit talks, saying: "If Phase II doesn't happen now it's because of the DUP."

In the Dail, Mr Varadkar admitted that Anglo-Irish relations are at their most fraught in recent history.

Ms May is now scrambling to the get the DUP on board with her Brexit plans before returning to Brussels for further negotiations with the EU, possibly as early as today.

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