Irish minister warns Dublin still prepared to veto Brexit trade talks despite divorce bill offer
Ireland's foreign minister has insisted Dublin is still prepared to scupper the UK's hopes of starting EU trade talks next month despite Theresa May doubling her divorce bill offer.
Simon Coveney said "we’re not going to move on" until Britain gives written guarantees there will be no return to a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Mrs May won the backing of her Cabinet last night to increase the Government's financial offer to Brussels from around £18bn to just under £40bn - so long as the EU agrees to move to trade talks at the European Council meeting in December.
But speaking to the Evening Standard, Mr Coveney echoed Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar's warning last week that the border issue must be solved before progress can be made.
He said: "Anybody who thinks that just because the financial settlement issue gets resolved, that somehow Ireland will have a hand put on the shoulder and be told, ‘Look, it’s time to move on...’ well, we’re not going to move on."
Mr Coveney added: "This is a much bigger issue than trade. This is about division on the island of Ireland.
"I will not be an Irish foreign minister that presides over a negotiation which is not prioritising peace on the island of Ireland."
Meanwhile, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said Mr Varadkar "should know better" than to "play around" with the politics of Northern Ireland.
Speaking to the BBC, she said the Irish prime minister was trying to exploit the situation in her country to get the best Brexit deal for Ireland.
She said: "I'm saying to him that he should know better than anybody that you don't play around with Northern Ireland to effect change in other places.
"Actually what I would like to see the Irish government doing is working with Northern Ireland, working with the Westminster government to bring about a Brexit that works, yes for Northern Ireland, but also for the Republic of Ireland.
"I recognise that the UK leaving the European Union is a big shock for the Republic of Ireland and they're trying to process all of that. But they certainly shouldn't be using Northern Ireland to get the maximum deal for their citizens.
"What they should be doing is working with us, working with the rest of the United Kingdom because of course, the biggest market for the Republic of Ireland is GB."