Implications of Republic’s borrowing will ‘come home’ after Covid-19, says Foster

North’s First Minister notes Brexit negotiations ‘don’t appear to be going particularly well’

The North’s First Minister Arlene Foster pledged to work to keep post-Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea minimal. File photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

The North’s First Minister Arlene Foster pledged to work to keep post-Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea minimal. File photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

 

The North’s First Minister Arlene Foster has said the implications of the Republic’s borrowing during the coronavirus crisis and membership of the European Union will “come home” when the pandemic abates.

The DUP leader made the comments on Sunday when asked on BBC radio if she worried about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

She insisted Northern Ireland was much stronger within the UK rather than within a Republic “which is still wedded to the European Union system”.

“After this crisis abates and we are moving to recovery and renewal we will see the impact that being part of the European Union will have on the Republic of Ireland. They have borrowed very heavily in terms of what they have been able to do over Covid, and so the implications of that will come home.”

She added: “In the past the Republic of Ireland was a gainer of being part of the European Union, they were always getting money for roads and all of those sort of things that has brought the Republic of Ireland up to be ... a modern democratic state.

“I have to say that they are now net contributors to the European Union and that will have an impact.

“But we have a very good relationship with our neighbours .. I think that that is a mature way to be, that certainly wasn’t the case always.”

Ms Foster was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Political Thinking With Nick Robinson on Sunday.

During the in-depth interview she also voiced her concern that the Brexit negotiations “don’t appear to be going particularly well”.

With just months to go until the extension period runs out at the end of the year, Ms Foster said she wanted to see a trade deal agreed.

“We need to make sure that both sides understand that it’s to both sides benefit, and that’s something I think the European Union often didn’t get in the negotiations from 2016 onwards,” she said.

“And for both our sakes I hope that we do get to a situation where we get a deal because that’s what we need in Northern Ireland.”

Ms Foster pledged to work to keep post-Brexit checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea minimal.

“In terms of Northern Ireland to Great Britain, unfettered access has very much been stated again in the command paper. I suppose the concern we are focused on is the transport of goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland because the whole issue is about the risk of those goods going into the Republic of Ireland and into the single market,” she said.

“We would say that is a very minimal risk when you look at the size of the single market of the European Union, so it’s very important that we continue to work with the UK government in making sure those are minimal checks.

“Of course we have had checks for many years in terms of live animals, SPS [sanitary and phytosanitary checks], to make sure there is no disease coming into the island of Ireland and those will continue but we need to make sure the rest of the administrative checks are kept to a minimal.”

Ms Foster insisted she has a very good relationship with British prime minister Boris Johnson.

“But we have to make sure we protect Northern Ireland. He knows that,” she said. – PA