Leaders from Ireland and Northern Ireland have made contradictory demands that threaten to hold up the Brexit negotiations.
Leo Varadkar, the prime minister of Ireland, has threatened to veto progress in the talks unless a hard border with Northern Ireland is ruled out.
Arlene Foster, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, whose support Theresa May’s Conservatives need for their majority in Westminster, has said she will accept neither a barrier between the province and the rest of the United Kingdom nor an agreement that would force Northern Ireland to mirror EU regulations.
Irish prime minister Enda Kenny has for the first time raised the option of unification with Northern Ireland, saying, “The discussion and negotiations that take place over the next period should take into account the possibility.”
Kenny’s liberal Fine Gael party hasn’t historically advocated the incorporation of British Northern Ireland into the Irish republic, but the European Union referendum last month has made the situation more fluid.
Northern Ireland’s first minister, Peter Robinson, stepped down on Thursday and pulled most of his Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ministers out of the region’s devolved government in an escalation of its standoff with the republican Sinn Féin.
The only unionist cabinet minister who did not resign, Arlene Foster, is taking over as acting first minister.
The resignations come after Robinson failed to gain the backing of other parties to suspend the Northern Ireland assembly and call early elections. His sudden withdrawal from the provincial government casts doubt on a power-sharing agreement that has kept the peace in Britain’s Irish enclave for twenty years. Read more “Unionists Pull Out of Northern Ireland Executive”