DUP meets Johnson and says he confirmed rejection of North-only backstop

‘We were encouraged by the tone and language in Dublin on Monday,’ Arlene Foster says

LArlene Foster, leader of the DUP and Nigel Dodds (DUP) leave Downing Street following talks with Boris Johnson. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

LArlene Foster, leader of the DUP and Nigel Dodds (DUP) leave Downing Street following talks with Boris Johnson. Photograph: Peter Summers/Getty Images

 

DUP leader Arlene Foster said British prime minister Boris Johnson had shown his commitment to securing a Brexit deal which “works for the entire United Kingdom” as well as the Republic of Ireland.

In a statement released after the meeting, Mrs Foster said: “We want to see the referendum result implemented. Those blocking Brexit are causing uncertainty but more worrying they are damaging democracy by ignoring the United Kingdom’s decision.

“A sensible deal, between the United Kingdom and European Union which respects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom, is the best way forward for everyone. We were encouraged by the tone and language in Dublin on Monday.

“History teaches us that any deal relating to Northern Ireland which cannot command cross-community support is doomed to failure. That is why the Northern Ireland backstop is flawed. Not one single unionist MLA in the Northern Ireland Assembly supports it.

“The prime minister rejected a Northern Ireland-only backstop in a letter to Donald Tusk on August 19th. It is undemocratic and unconstitutional and would place a tariff border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. That would be unacceptable.

“During today’s meeting, the prime minister confirmed his rejection of the Northern Ireland-only backstop and his commitment to securing a deal which works for the entire United Kingdom as well as our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland.”

Before the DUP meeting, Mr Johnson’s spokesman ruled out suggestions the government was seeking a Northern Ireland-only backstop — as opposed to a UK-wide backstop — in discussions with the EU. He said: “We are not seeking a Northern Ireland-only backstop.”

Quite relaxed

On Monday night, the deputy leader of the DUP, Nigel Dodds, has said he does not believe Boris Johnson will agree to a border in the Irish Sea.

When asked by BBC Newsnight if the British prime minister would agree to an Irish Sea border, Mr Dodds said that he had been speaking to Mr Johnson in the MPs’ dining room. “I don’t expect Boris Johnson to do anything of the sort,” he said.

He said his party was “quite relaxed about the way things are going,” but did not appear to rule out the possibility of some economic “arrangements” with the EU where these were of benefit to Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, provided they were subject to the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Mr Dodds was speaking amid speculation that the British government could seek to secure a deal to leave the EU by proposing a Northern Ireland only backstop with a restored Northern Executive and Assembly having a role in how it would be activated.

DUP leader Arlene Foster is in London today for pre-arranged meetings, including a reception at Westminster with a delegation from Trade NI.

Speaking after Mr Johnson’s meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Monday morning, Ms Foster said she was “encouraged” by Mr Johnson’s commitment to a “sensible” Brexit, and she hoped the discussions in Dublin would “lay the foundation for a way forward”.

“To secure a sensible deal which respects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom will require pragmatic discussions on all sides,” she said.

“The prime minister has already ruled out a Northern Ireland only backstop because it would be anti-democratic, unconstitutional and would mean our core industries would be subject to EU rules without any means of changing them,” added Ms Foster.

“We will continue to work with the government and will also use any discussions with the Taoiseach to encourage efforts towards a sensible deal,” she said.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said he hoped Mr Johnson and Mr Varadkar were “engaged positively and meaningfully in finding a solution to ensure that the United Kingdom leaves the EU in an orderly manner with an agreement”.

“However, let’s be absolutely clear that the backstop cannot be the basis for agreement,” said Mr Swann.

He added, “The fact is Northern Ireland unionists of all shades are potentially being hung out to dry by a UK government that has taken its eye off the ball and an Irish Government that has wrapped itself in the flag regardless of the risks posed to our economy and their own.”