Hopes of Brexit deal fade as DUP leaders launch bitter attack on Irish government
Boris Johnson's hopes of securing a new Brexit deal have diminished after the DUP launched a furious attack on Ireland's resonse to the Prime Minister's latest offer.
Party leader Arlene Foster and her deputy, Nigel Dodds, issued angry statements denouncing comments by Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his foreign minister, Simon Coveney.
Dublin has insisted that Mr Johnson's proposals for replacing the Irish backstop are unacceptable and must be redrawn.
In particular, the Irish government is unhappy at plans to effectively give the DUP a veto over whether Northern Ireland remains aligned with EU customs rules.
Mr Coveney said: "If this is the final proposal, there will be no deal."
But hitting back, Mrs Foster said: "Simon Coveney’s remarks are deeply unhelpful, obstructionist and intransigent. The Irish government’s majoritarian desire to ride roughshod over unionism was one of the reasons why the withdrawal agreement was rejected.
"Mr Coveney’s rejection of a reasonable offer is paving the road for a no deal exit because unionism will not allow Northern Ireland to be trapped at the whim of Dublin or the EU. We will not buy that."
Meanwhile, Mr Dodds mounted a personal attack on Mr Varadkar, saying he would be responsible for the return of a hard border in Ireland.
He said: "The incendiary and outrageous comments by Leo Varadkar and his Foreign Minister are a clear ramping up of rhetoric designed to derail any realistic prospect of a deal.
"The flippant Dublin reaction to the Prime Minister’s proposals has also exposed the reality that the Irish government would never have consented to the United Kingdom leaving the backstop if it had been implemented.
"Our message to Leo is simple. He should reflect on his comments and his intransigent approach. He is destined to go down in history as the Taoiseach who restored a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland because his friends in Brussels will insist on it."
The spat is a blow for Mr Johnson as they make it less likely that Ireland will ultimately give the thumps-up to Mr Johnson's proposals.
In the Commons on Thursday, the PM said his offer was an attempt to "bridge the chasm" between the EU and the UK.
Mr Johnson's top Brexit negotiator, David Frost, will return to Brussels for more talks with EU officials on Friday.
According to The Times, the Prime Minister has a week to come up with fresh proposals or there will be no chance of a deal at a crunch European Council on 17 and 18 October.