Leo Varadkar says it's 'very important we listen to the DUP,' with Windsor Framework still in balance

The Irish prime minister has played down the need for the UK government to alter the new UK-EU post-Brexit deal, despite the DUP calling for it to be "changed".

Speaking to reporters in Washington DC, Leo Varadkar said it is "very important that we listen to the DUP, that we hear their concerns", adding: "They're the largest unionist party after all, and that does matter."

Asked by Sky News if he thinks the UK government should tweak the framework with Brussels in order to appease the DUP, Mr Varadkar replied: "In fairness, I don't think anyone has asked for that. My understanding is that the DUP has asked for some clarifications from the British government.

"What the British government has said is that they would engage with all five major parties in Northern Ireland on any changes they were going to make to their domestic law, and I'm sure that'll happen."

But that appears to contradict DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who wants to see "change" to the new agreement. Addressing the National Press Club in Washington today, he said that certain key areas of the deal "require further clarification, re-working and change".

"Whilst the Windsor Framework goes some way in addressing our concerns, there is still more work to do," he said.

"The Windsor Framework does not deal with some of the fundamental problems at the heart of our current difficulties."

The DUP has refused to take its place in Northern Ireland's devolved government at Stormont while the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol exists. The party sees that arrangement as putting a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The Windsor Framework - a deal between London and Brussels announced with much fanfare on 27 February - was supposed to resolve the impasse, but the DUP has refused to bow to pressure to accept it.

Mr Varadkar also described Sinn Fein adverts in US newspapers today calling for a referendum on Irish unity as unhelpful to acceptance of the Windsor Framework.

"I'm someone who believes in unification but I don't think that's helpful at this time," he said.

"It's a sensitive moment. We're trying to get everyone on board for the Windsor Framework, and we shouldn't forget what the Good Friday Agreement says.

"It says there can be a border poll when it's clear that the majority of people north and south would vote for it, and that's not clear at all at the moment."

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The adverts, placed by Sinn Fein's US agents Friends of Sinn Fein, were heavily criticised by the DUP.

"I find it incredible that in newspapers across the USA this morning there is a full page advert from Sinn Fein calling for a referendum on Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom," Sir Jeffrey said.

"Sinn Fein is drumming up hundreds of thousands of dollars for a divisive border poll campaign. There is no evidence of growing support for Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom. Indeed, every major poll points in the opposite direction.

"Northern Ireland's future is with unionists and nationalists working together. A border poll would pitch unionists and nationalists against each other and lead to further divisions."