German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other EU leaders are more in tune with the wishes of the people in the north of Ireland than the British government and the DUP, SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood has claimed.
The Foyle MLA was reacting to claims that Mrs Merkel advocated to Boris Johnson that Northern Ireland should remain in the Customs Union during discussions on Brexit earlier today. Neither party has confirmed the details of their conversation.
Mr Eastwood however called on others to also “listen to the voice of people, communities and business who oppose a border across Ireland”.
He claimed: “I wish I could say I was surprised or shocked that the German Chancellor is more in tune with the will of people, businesses and communities here than the DUP or the British Government. But it has been the case for the last three years that EU leaders have listened to the concerns raised by people here and reacted with thoughtful proposals while London, supported by the DUP, has failed to step up to the mark.
“Johnson’s government, having submitted proposals which have been rejected by every party in Northern Ireland apart from their DUP partners and which they knew would be rejected by Europe, is now feigning pantomime shock that a double border is unacceptable. It is embarrassing, insulting and they are playing a dangerous game with the livelihoods of people in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “Angela Merkel is right. Retaining membership of the customs union and the single market is the only solution that prevents a hard border on this island. People here voted to remain in the customs union, we voted to retain the benefits of single market membership.
“The British Government, aided and abetted by the DUP, is setting out on a course of deliberate economic and constitutional vandalism for no reason. They should set aside the Downing Street war games and finally listen to what people here are saying.”
Meanwhile DUP Leader Arlene Foster has claimed that the suggestion coming from Europe that Northern Ireland must remain in the EU Customs Union “now reveal the real objective of Dublin and the European Union”.
“For the United Kingdom to be asked to leave a part of its sovereign territory in a foreign organisation of which the UK would no longer be a part and over which we would have no say whatsoever is beyond crazy. No UK Government could ever concede such a surrender.”
She further claimed: “The EU is not interested in a negotiated outcome at this time. Their position is the UK can only leave with a deal if it agrees a binding piece of international law permanently tying either the whole country or a part of it to the EU’s legal order over which it has no control.”