Arlene Foster urges Brexit negotiators to show ‘more mettle’

DUP leader accuses former Labour spindoctor of ‘liberally adding’ to the Belfast Agreement

 DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party was ‘committed to securing a Brexit deal that provides a seamless, frictionless border with the Republic of Ireland’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party was ‘committed to securing a Brexit deal that provides a seamless, frictionless border with the Republic of Ireland’. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

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DUP leader Arlene Foster has urged the UK’s Brexit negotiators to show “more mettle” and face down those who prophesise disaster for Northern Ireland under its planned exit from European Union.

The UK negotiators “should be decisive and responsible, remaining true both to the union and the referendum result,” she said, in an article for the Impartial Reporter on Thursday.

She was responding to an opinion piece in the same newspaper last week by Alastair Campbell, former political advisor to Labour ex-prime minister Tony Blair. Mr Campbell accused Ms Foster of giving no answers “beyond platitudes” to the question of how to manage the Border under Brexit, and argued that while she and other Leavers won the referendum vote in 2016 “they have been losing the argument ever since”.

Ms Foster responded: “After the article appeared in print, a fair number of Fermanagh people contacted me. Most of them summed up Mr Campbell with sentences which included the words ‘Iraq’ and ‘spin’.”

She said:“For all of his claims to defend the Belfast Agreement, Alastair falls into the same trap as many other commentators by on the one hand liberally adding to the Belfast Agreement and with the other undermining the East-West elements of that Agreement.

“He appears to have no objection to erecting a Border down the Irish Sea. This would be economically disastrous for Northern Ireland.

“I want to ensure that our local businesses are faced with no barriers to the daily trade which occurs with the Republic of Ireland and I don’t want to see that at the expense of trading with our single biggest market.

Trade difference

“Whilst trade with the Republic is important, we sell four times as much goods and services to Great Britain than to the Irish Republic, valued at £14bn. Northern Ireland also purchases nearly six times as much from GB than from the Republic, worth over £13billion.

“Perhaps cutting Northern Ireland off from a market which is more important than the Republic of Ireland, rest of the EU and rest of the world combined is just one of the issues that Alastair Campbell is prepared to ‘work it out somehow’ in his desire to thwart Brexit in part if he cannot achieve it in totality.”

She said: “The DUP is committed to securing a Brexit deal that provides a seamless, frictionless border with the Republic of Ireland, delivering clarity for businesses and households across Northern Ireland, whilst ensuring the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK is maintained.

“In the coming months, UK negotiators should show considerably more mettle than those who adopt a defeatist position.

“They should be decisive and responsible, remaining true both to the union and the referendum result.

“Then Alastair Campbell and others can be proven wrong and the best outcome for all our people will be achieved.”

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