Foster hints DUP could accept special status for North in Brexit deal
‘What we want to see is a recognition that we are on an island... but also we are in the UK’
DUP leader Arlene Foster: ‘We do recognise the unique history and geography, but we also have to recognise that we are in the United Kingdom.’ Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster has said that she hopes there are solutions to the Brexit impasse that involve special treatment for Northern Ireland but do not affect the constitutional position of the North.
Her comments to journalists in Dublin this evening suggest that the DUP could possibly accept a new Brexit deal which treated the North differently to the rest of the UK, subject to conditions.
Speaking in Dublin ahead of an address to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce tonight, she was asked if Northern Ireland-specific solutions are possible if they did not affect the constitutional position of the North.
Replying, Ms Foster said: “Well, I hope so, because what we want to see working . . . I think what we want to see is a recognition that we are on an island, we do recognise the unique history and geography, but we also have to recognise that we are in the United Kingdom, ” she said.
Ms Foster said the existing backstop – which could keep the North under EU rules to avoid a hard border – “is anti-democratic, unconstitutional and has to go . . . that is our position.”
She said the backstop in the present agreement “that would bring about customs between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and that is unconstitutional and undemocratic”.
However, her message in Dublin – that the DUP could accept different treatment to the rest of the UK for the North in a future new Brexit deal – will likely be seen as indicative of the DUP’s willingness to move in negotiations on a new Brexit deal.
She insisted that the DUP is not “a no-deal party”.
The DUP leader was in Dublin on Wednesday to address the Dublin Chamber of Commerce annual dinner.
Afterwards, she held a 45-minute meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings where Brexit was discussed.
In her speech, Ms Foster said any Northern Ireland specific arrangements would have to be have “the support and consent of the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland”.
She also said in “some sectors of the economy. . . solutions can be found that will not, on the one hand, erect new barriers to trade within the UK while not damaging the integrity of the EU single market”.