Arlene Foster hopes for a deal on what she described as a ‘sensible Brexit’
DUP leader strongly reiterated view Northern Ireland leaves European Union on same terms as rest of UK during Dublin visit
Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster speaks to the media outside St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times.
During a visit to Dublin to hold separate meetings with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Ms Foster rejected any solution that would create what she said were internal barriers between Northern Ireland and Britain.
“We are very clear about what we need for Brexit. We need to make sure that the whole of the United Kingdom leaves the European Union together and there are no differences made between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”
Speaking to the media before visiting St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin on Monday, Ms Foster said she did not want a no-deal scenario and very much hoped there would be a deal on what she described as a “sensible Brexit”.
She met Mr Martin in the afternoon and was due to have dinner with the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar later on Monday evening.
She was asked by reporters about claims around EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s proposal for Northern Ireland, where it would remain within the customs union and single market, and also have a single market with the UK.
She rejected the claim it would give Northern Ireland the best of both worlds.
“It’s not the best of both worlds and that’s where the problem is. I know it has been sold in that fashion.
“Of course it would create barriers between us and Great Britain. Of course, Great Britain is our largest market by far and we can’t have barriers economically, and constitutionally I am a unionist and I believe in keeping the union alive,” she said.
Asked about the example give by Mr Varadkar and others of the relationship between Spain and the Canary Islands as a way forward (where there is an autonomous government and different customs arrangements) she said: “I have looked at that model. I do not believe it is the way forward. The way forward is not to have any internal barriers between us and what is our largest market, the Great Britain. We send three-and-a-half times more to Great Britain than we do to the Republic of Ireland.”
Ms Foster said that nobody wanted to see any physical infrastructure on the border. “What we want is free flowing across the island of Ireland. What we cannot have is a barrier between ourselves and Britain.
“Nowhere would you have an international barrier within a country. We have to make sure the whole of the UK leaves the EU together.”