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Brexit the biggest challenge to UK in modern era: DUP's Foster

By Adrian Rutherford

Arlene Foster has said delivering on Brexit is the biggest challenge facing the government in the modern political era.

In a speech in England yesterday, the DUP leader pledged to work closely with Parliament to ensure the UK’s exit from the European Union was “sensible and beneficial” to Northern Ireland.

She also told how she “cares for neighbours in the Republic of Ireland”.

Yesterday marked a year until the UK formally leaves the EU. As the Prime Minister was embarking on a whistle-stop tour of the UK, Mrs Foster was the guest speaker at the Devon Conservative Association. She was invited by East Devon MP Hugo Swire, who served as a Northern Ireland Office minister.

On Brexit’s challenges, Mrs Foster said: “Delivering on the decision of the people of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is the most substantial and complex process the Government and Parliament has undertaken in the modern political era. We are working with the Government to ensure that as we leave the European Union we do so in a way that is sensible and beneficial to Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.”

The prospect of a border on the island of Ireland is a key stumbling block in the negotiations. The DUP said it will not countenance any difference in regulation between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Mrs Foster added: “We value the commitment from the Prime Minister that there can be no internal barriers or borders to trade within the UK, and we will not support a withdrawal agreement that separates Northern Ireland economically from the rest of our United Kingdom.

“I am a proud United Kingdom citizen but I care for neighbours in the Republic of Ireland. I want to see an outcome that works for everyone.”

Mrs Foster said she stood for an inclusive brand of unionism.

She added: “Above all, I want to see a settled community in Northern Ireland. A settled community where people can hold whatever identity — or indeed identities — they wish.”

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