DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has called for a “fresh approach” from Tánaiste Leo Varadkar ahead of their meeting to discuss post-Brexit arrangements and Covid recovery.
Mr Varadkar met Sinn Féin Finance Minister Conor Murphy and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood on Wednesday, ahead of the meeting with Mr Donaldson on Thursday.
But the DUP leader said the meeting will be “meaningless” unless Mr Varadkar adopts a new approach on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The protocol, part of the Brexit divorce deal agreed by the UK and Brussels, effectively keeps the North in the EU’s single market for goods.
This means checks on goods being sent from Britain into the single market and in some cases could result in prohibitions on certain products that do not comply with EU rules.
The protocol was put in place to ensure there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland, but has proved deeply unpopular with unionists who have insisted it should be removed.
Donaldson said: “A fresh visit from Leo Varadkar to Northern Ireland will be meaningless unless he comes with a fresh approach.
“He has championed a protocol which fundamentally undermines the Belfast Agreement and he has dismissed economic and constitutional concerns with patronising comments about the colour of our post boxes.
“It was Leo Varadkar as the then taoiseach who insisted on such arrangements with fellow EU leaders. If the Irish Sea border remains, then Mr Varadkar will return as taoiseach with a legacy of relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic fundamentally undermined and political progress in Northern Ireland reversed.
“Mr Varadkar faces a choice: he can continue with the rhetoric of recent years and watch those events unfold or he can adopt a new spirit of positive co-operation.
“Arrangements which respect both the EU single market and Northern Ireland’s place within the UK internal market are not just achievable but would deliver on the promise of protecting the Belfast Agreement.”
Mr Varadkar is also meeting business representatives during his visit to the North.