GETTYDUP chief Arlene Foster condemned Tony Blair and Sir John Major for offending Northern Ireland
The Northern Ireland politician said their warnings - over Brexit’s potentially damning the peace process - were an “insult” to voters in the region.
Both former Prime Ministers have voiced concerns about the possibility of border controls being reinstated between the North and Irish Republic.
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 insisted she did not want to see the imposition of a hard border after Britain leaves the EU, despite her party propping up Theresa May’s Government in the House of Commons.
She reaffirmed her party’s objection to the EU’s ‘fallback’ plan to keep Northern Ireland in the single market if they were unable to resolve the border issue with Britain.
The DUP leader said: “I want to see an optimistic, sensible and pragmatic approach to Brexit.”
Last weekend, former Tory prime minister Sir John put forward his own thoughts: “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.”
By the same token, Mr Blair accused voters of being prepared to give up peace in Northern Ireland for Brexit.
Last week, 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.”
At the BCC conference, Mrs Foster described Sir John and Mr Blair’s interventions as “galling” and said they should know better.
She said they “need to understand the Northern Ireland of today, not the 1980s.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson declared it will be possible to have “very, very minimal controls” on the border of Northern Ireland last night, saying there was no need for a return to a hard Irish border.
He did, however, suggest some form of control post-Brexit could provoke a disagreement.
Last summer, the Government said there should be no physical infrastructure (ie customs posts) at the border, which has almost 300 crossing points.
GETTYFoster meeting chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at the European Commission headquarters
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 warned that EU negotiations could grind to a halt if UK proposals to prevent a hard border are not put forward within weeks.