Leaving N.I. in E.U. customs union 'will not have our support' says D.U.P. leader Arlene Foster

D.U.P. leader, Arlene Foster, is warning British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, that her party will never support a Northern Ireland only backstop.

Friday, 11th October 2019, 5:05 pm
Updated Friday, 11th October 2019, 6:05 pm
D.U.P. leader, Arlene Foster and British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Mrs. Foster issued the statement a few hours after Boris Johnson refused to rule out leaving Northern Ireland in the E.U.'s customs union while the rest of the U.K. would leave it.

"We have been consistent in our opposition to the backstop, whether U.K. or N.I. only, and anything that traps Northern Ireland in the European Union, whether Single Market or Customs Union, as the rest of the United Kingdom leaves will not have our support - the Prime Minister is very mindful of that," said Mrs. Foster on Friday afternoon.

The suggestion that Northern Ireland could be left inside the E.U.'s customs union came less than 24 hours after Boris Johnson met with Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, in Cheshire, England on Thursday.

In a joint statement, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Varadkar, said after the talks that they could see a "pathway" to a deal that would facilitate an orderly exit from the E.U. for the U.K.

“Understandably, there has been much speculation in the period since the Prime Minister met the Taoiseach yesterday," said Mrs. Foster.

"Those discussions are a matter for the United Kingdom Government as they negotiate Brexit issues.

"However the Democratic Unionist Party, given its pivotal role in Parliament, and as the largest Northern Ireland party will always exercise our considerable influence in ensuring we stand up for Northern Ireland.

"We will only ever consider supporting arrangements that are in Northern Ireland’s long-term economic and constitutional interests.

"We are regularly in touch with the Prime Minister and as a result he is aware of our views."

Mrs. Foster went on to say that anything concerning Northern Ireland and Brexit could only be considered as credible if it commands cross community support from both unionists and nationalists.

"The United Kingdom EU referendum result delivered the people’s verdict and it must be delivered. To do otherwise would be anti-democratic.

"We have argued that it is important to secure a balanced and sensible deal as we leave the European Union.

"Those who know anything about Northern Ireland will appreciate that these issues will only work with the support of the unionist as well as the nationalist community."

Whilst sounding somewhat sceptical about what may or may not have been agreed by Prime Minister Johnson, Mrs. Foster said she would reserve judgement until it is brought before her and the rest of the D.U.P. over the next few days.

"The DUP has always indicated that the United Kingdom must leave the EU as one nation and in so doing that no barriers to trade are erected within the UK.

"In December 2017 we insisted that democratic consent was required in circumstances where Northern Ireland would align alongside specific sectors of the EU single market.

"Paragraph 50 of the Joint Report between the United Kingdom and the European Union outlined the requirement for such consent. We have held steadfast to that position whilst recognising the need to be flexible and look at Northern Ireland specific solutions achieved with the support and consent of the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland."

Mrs. Foster added: "In order to secure a sensible deal for everyone it is important that the European Union understand that to maximise the prospects of agreement there will need to be a clear acceptance that the economic and constitutional integrity of the whole of the United Kingdom will have to be respected as we leave.

"As a consequence of the mandate given to us by voters in 2017 the DUP is very relevant in the Parliamentary arithmetic and regardless of the ups and downs of the Brexit discussions that has not changed.

"We will judge any outcome reached by the Prime Minister against the criteria above.”