Stormont does not have freedom to diverge from London on Trade, says Foster

DUP leader says NI Assembly cannot interfere with trade under Northern Ireland Act

The Northern Irish Assembly does not have the freedom to deviate from London on trade, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The Northern Irish Assembly does not have the freedom to deviate from London on trade, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

The Northern Irish Assembly does not have the freedom to deviate from London on trade, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Six One News, Ms Foster underlined that the Westminster Parliament was responsible for Northern Irish trade matters and that Stormont could not “interfere” with the UK’s single market under the legislation of the Northern Ireland Act.

“We can’t interfere with something that is reserved to Westminster,” said the DUP leader. “They look after trade deals, they look after going out, and I certainly hope post Brexit that’s what’s going to happen, that we do strike trade deals that are good not just for GB but are good for the whole of the UK.”

She said the Northern Irish assembly had never before sought to change rules around trade “because we didn’t have the power to do so” and that “we won’t have the power to do so in the future”.

Asked why she had not called for an exception in trade rules for Northern Ireland, Ms Foster replied “because I’m a unionist”. “That’s the reason I got involved in politics, to secure the union, to make sure that the union continues, not just constitutionally but economically as well. I think sometimes people miss the point that most of our trade is with the rest of the UK, it’s with Great Britain and what we can’t have are barriers which would damage that trade going forward.”

The DUP leader said her “commitment” was to ensure the return of the power-sharing executive and assembly, adding that she did not want to end up in a “no deal situation” regarding Brexit.

Ms Foster was criticised earlier this week for saying that the Belfast Agreement was not sacrosanct and could be changed to facilitate a Brexit deal. Ms Foster had expressed deep frustration with EU officials and those in favour of the UK remaining in the union, who repeatedly stated that the Belfast Agreement could not be touched.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar responded that the Belfast Agreement was not up for negotiation in Brexit talks while Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said there were no circumstances under which the Government would support changing the Belfast Agreement to secure a Brexit deal.