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Brexit: First Minister Arlene Foster 'no regrets' over backing vote to leave EU

By John Mulgrew

Published 29/06/2016

First Minister, Arlene Foster, and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, today officially opened a new £1 million Sixteen South. Pic Kelvin Boyes/Presseye
First Minister, Arlene Foster, and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, today officially opened a new £1 million Sixteen South. Pic Kelvin Boyes/Presseye

First Minister Arlene Foster says she has “no regrets” over her decision to back Brexit.

While the UK voted in favour of Leave in the recent referendum, the majority of Northern Ireland voters opted for Remain.

The DUP was the only major party in Northern Ireland that backed the Leave campaign.

Asked on Wednesday whether she believes she can continue in a power sharing government with Sinn Fein on a common platform following the result, Mrs Foster said “we have to”.

“That's what we have been elected to do. To represent the concerns, the wishes and the hopes and aspirations of the people of Northern Ireland.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness described the pair as “cohesive”, despite Thursday's Referendum outcome but blasted the result as “disastrous”.

Ms Foster was speaking as she joined the Sinn Fein MLA at the opening of the offices of children's television production company, Sixteen South.

“No I don't regret backing Brexit," she said.

"If you look at the votes here in Northern Ireland, and you look at my election back in May of this year, and the fact that 30% of the electorate backed my leadership at that time, the only mainstream party to stand for a Brexit, and 44% of the people backed that,” Ms Foster said.

“So I have absolutely no regrets to my position on the referendum campaign. But, as I say, the campaign is now over.

“It is regrettable that some parties have set their face against the decision of the UK electorate, however, after a while they will realise we will have to get on and we have to do the things that we were elected to do, and that was to represent the people of Northern Ireland.

And Martin McGuinness said the number one priority was to “maintain our relationship with Europe”.

“All of these problems we are facing have been foisted upon us by a decision to hold the referendum which I think was a huge mistake, as he [David Cameron] toddles off into the sunset, will come to recognise...it was a disastrous thing to do.”

The UK's exit from the European Union is expected to dominate the talks agenda in ministerial and cross-border meetings at Stormont later.

Asked how she can represent Northern Ireland with her counterpart and many others vehemently opposed to Brexit, Mrs Foster said: “The campaign is over, the decision has been taken and now it is our job to go and represent the people of Northern Ireland in terms of the negotiations that are going to take place.

“That is certainly my focus. To get the best deal for Northern Ireland.”

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