Saturday 17 November 2018

DUP will not support May's Irish Sea border backstop plan - Arlene Foster

  • DUP leader Arlene Foster says she will not support British Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to have Northern Ireland specific backstop on 'Irish Sea border'
  • 'May will have a job of work to do to get this through cabinet' - Arlene Foster
  • Earlier, Taoiseach Varadkar said he has 'no specific concerns' about the letters between British Prime Minister Theresa May and the DUP - but again stressed the importance of avoiding a hard border in Ireland
  • Leo Varadkar also said he believes Brexit deal is possible 'in the next couple of weeks'
Visit: DUP leader Arlene Foster arrives in Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Visit: DUP leader Arlene Foster arrives in Dublin. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Cormac McQuinn and Denise Calnan

The DUP leader Arlene Foster has said that she will not be supporting UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to have a Northern Ireland specific backstop on an 'Irish Sea border'.

Speaking to RTE News Six At One, Ms Foster said she would not support a Northern Ireland specific backstop that would see a border down the Irish Sea.

She said the problem with Mrs May's letter is that she has confirmed there will be a Northern Ireland specific backstop and the Chequers plan for the rest of the UK.

Ms Foster said the DUP will not support a different regulatory regime for Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

Theresa May, pictured in Northern Ireland with DUP leader Arlene Foster (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)
Theresa May, pictured in Northern Ireland with DUP leader Arlene Foster (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

She told the programme that no unionist will be able to support it in the British parliament.

She added that Mrs May "will have a job of work to do to get this through cabinet."

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he still believes a Brexit deal can be done in the coming weeks but warned that “lots of things can go wrong”.

Mr Varadkar also said he has “no specific concerns” about the letters between British Prime Minister Theresa May and the DUP, but again stressed the importance of avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

His remarks come after DUP leader Arlene Foster expressed alarm at the contents of a letter from Mrs May which her party is interpreting as creating the potential for a post Brexit border in the Irish Sea.

Mr Varadkar made his remarks at a press conference after today’s British-Irish Council meeting on the Isle of Man.

He said the most important objective is to give everyone in Ireland, North and South “the assurance that a hard border will not develop… no matter what else may happen in the years ahead.

“That is why we’re seeking on that is legally operative and one that gives us that guarantee that is necessary.”

Mr Varadkar said talks are at a “sensitive point” and a “successful outcome is not guaranteed but I think it is possible in the next couple of weeks”.

He added: “I think it’s more likely than not that we will be able to conclude an agreement... before the end of the year but lots of things can go wrong”.

Mr Varadkar said any deal would still have to be ratified by Westminster and the European Parliament and he said: “even when all of that is done then we begin the talks on the future relationship so there’s no clean break here.

“Brexit is going to go on for a very long period of time.

“And we’ll do our best to work through it and make sure we get the best outcome for our citizens.”

Asked about Mrs May’s letter, he said both the prime minister and the DUP are “very much able to speak for themselves”.

Mr Varadkar also said: “I’ve no specific concerns about the communications that are happening between Prime Minister May and the DUP.

“It’s entirely appropriate that they should be communicating on an issue of real importance to all of us.

Mr Varadkar pointed out that the DUP don't represent the majority of people in Northern Ireland.

“The only thing I would say is that it is very important that we listen to the voice of Northern Ireland in all of this.

"When we listen to the voice of Northern Ireland we should listen to all political parties, we should listen to farmers, to fishermen, to the business community, to trade unions and to civil society.

“And I think if we do that, if we listen to the voice of Northern Ireland as a whole that will help us to come to an agreement.”

Earlier Mr Varadkar said: “certainly the position of the Irish Government has always been that we don’t want to see any new borders between us and that applies as much between Larne and Stranraer or between Belfast and London as it does between Newry and Dundalk.

“We’re not the ones here who are seeking any borders or any new checks of any sort. But Brexit has given rise to a difficult situation and we need to resolve that.”

Backstop

The EU’s proposed fall-back position to avoid a hard border – the so-called backstop - would effectively keep Northern Ireland aligned with Brussels's customs union and single market.

A leaked letter from Ms May to the DUP says the British prime minister wants a "backstop" measure which would create a temporary "joint customs territory" with the EU for the whole of the UK.

According to The Times of London the letter says the EU wants a Northern Ireland-specific “backstop to the backstop” and Mrs May tells the DUP she could not accept any circumstances where this could come in to force.

But the DUP has interpreted the wording of her letter to mean that the measure will be contained in the Brexit divorce deal despite Mrs May's insistence it will never come into effect.

Mrs Foster said: "The Prime Minister's letter raises alarm bells for those who value the integrity of our precious union and for those who want a proper Brexit for the whole of the UK."

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