Arlene Foster yesterday condemned Tony Blair and Sir John Major for stoking fears about the return of violence in Northern Ireland.
The DUP leader said their warnings over how Brexit could threaten the peace process were an ‘insult’ to voters in the region.
The former prime ministers have voiced concerns about the possibility of border controls being reinstated between the North and the Irish Republic.
The DUP leader said their warnings over how Brexit could threaten the peace process were an ‘insult’ to voters in the region
Speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce annual conference in London, Mrs Foster said: ‘I object in the strongest possible terms to people who have limited experience of the Troubles in Northern Ireland throwing threats of violence around as some kind of bargaining chip in this negotiating process.
‘To do so is an insult to the people of Northern Ireland who worked so hard to bring peace to our country.’
Mrs Foster, whose party props up Theresa May’s Government in the House of Commons, insisted she did not want to see the imposition of a ‘hard border’ after Britain leaves the EU.
At the same time she reaffirmed her party’s objection to the EU’s ‘fallback’ plan – which would effectively keep Northern Ireland in the single market if the two sides were unable to resolve the border issue.
‘I want to see an optimistic, sensible and pragmatic approach to Brexit,’ she said.
In a newspaper article last weekend, former Tory prime minister Sir John wrote: ‘Peace – together with mutual British and Irish membership of the EU – has ushered in a finer relationship between Dublin and London than we have ever known in the past.
‘Now, unless we proceed with care, Brexit may undermine it.’ Mr Blair last week accused voters of being prepared to give up peace in Northern Ireland for Brexit
‘Now, unless we proceed with care, Brexit may undermine it.’ Mr Blair last week accused voters of being prepared to give up peace in Northern Ireland for Brexit.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I find it not just disappointing but sickening that people should really be prepared to sacrifice peace in Northern Ireland on the altar of Brexit.’
Speaking outside the conference last night, Mrs Foster described Sir John and Mr Blair’s interventions as ‘galling’ and said they ‘should know better’. She added that they ‘need to understand the Northern Ireland of today, not the 1980s’.
Boris Johnson declared last night that it will be possible to have ‘very, very minimal controls’ on the border of Northern Ireland.
The Foreign Secretary said there was ‘no need’ for a return to a hard Irish border.
However, his suggestion of some form of controls post-Brexit could provoke a row.
Last summer, the Government said there should be no physical infrastructure, such as customs posts, at the border, which has almost 300 crossing points. In a position paper, ministers said they did not envisage CCTV cameras or number-plate recognition technology around the border.
Mr Johnson said the issue ‘has understandably a great deal of political, emotional charge’ and it was ‘all too forgivable for politicians to wish to be absolutely certain about how things will work’.
European Council president Donald Tusk yesterday warned that EU negotiations could grind to a halt if UK proposals to prevent a hard border are not put forward within weeks.