Saturday 24 August 2019

DUP defends Tory deal as 'compass set for a disorderly Brexit'

DUP leader Arlene Foster has defended Boris Johnson. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
DUP leader Arlene Foster has defended Boris Johnson. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed Boris Johnson appeared to have "set the compass for a disorderly and crash Brexit" after she met the new UK prime minister in Belfast.

As well as calling on Mr Johnson to make provisions for a Border poll in the North - something he ruled out in talks with the DUP - Ms McDonald strongly criticised the new prime minister after meeting him in Stormont House.

She said his "indulgence of the DUP and rejectionist unionism has to stop" and that his commentary thus far on Brexit had been "damaging and dangerous".

"Nobody believes he will act with impartiality," she said, adding that the minority Conservative British government's confidence and supply agreement with the DUP had "poisoned the groundwater" in Northern Ireland.

However, the DUP defended the deal as one that had delivered investment and infrastructure for all of Northern Ireland's people.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: "We have delivered an extra £1bn for the people of Northern Ireland which they would not otherwise have if it were not for the relationship between ourselves and the current government."

Northern Ireland civil service estimates that some 40,000 jobs could be lost in a no-deal Brexit were dismissed as "hyperbole" as Ms Foster insisted that no party wants a no-deal situation.

She said the backstop, a guarantee that there will be no hard border on the island of Ireland, was the "fundamental problem" in the Brexit deal as it stands - and backed Mr Johnson's decision not to rule out a no-deal Brexit unless it is removed.

"Of course you keep it on the table. We're in a negotiation to try to get the best deal for the people of the United Kingdom. You don't take things off the table," Ms Foster said.

Mr Johnson met with the leaders of the five main political parties in the North the morning after a private dinner with the DUP leadership on Tuesday night.

News of the dinner drew the ire of the four other parties yesterday, and there appeared to have been little progress on efforts to restore power-sharing as the PM departed the Stormont estate just before lunchtime.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The overarching purpose of these meetings was to discuss moving forward in the ongoing power-sharing talks and getting the Northern Irish democratic institutions back up and running as soon as possible.

"The prime minister told all of the parties that he was determined to bring this process to a successful conclusion and that he would do everything he could to make it happen.

"He said that while there had been constructive progress in recent weeks at Stormont, that there now needed to be serious and intense engagement to get this done and that he had faith that all parties would step up to the challenge."

Irish Independent

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