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DUP's Foster applauds Boris Johnson ruling out of backstop after days of rumours

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and DUP leader Arlene Foster
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and DUP leader Arlene Foster
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The DUP has welcomed the Prime Minister's clear rejection of a Northern Ireland-only backstop and said that a deal which undermines the Union will not be acceptable to Parliament.

But the SDLP accused Boris Johnson of "pandering to DUP hardliners", while Sinn Fein insisted it would be naive for anyone to "set any store in anything Boris Johnson says from one day to the next".

During a Facebook Live Q&A from Downing Street yesterday, Mr Johnson referred to media speculation that the controversial mechanism was back on the table.

"The crucial thing to understand is we will not accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop - that simply doesn't work for the UK," he said.

"We've got to come out whole and entire and solve the problems of the Northern Irish border and I am absolutely certain we can do that.

"We're working very, very hard - flat out - to do that."

Speaking from Westminster last night, Arlene Foster said: "I welcome the clear statement from the Prime Minister that he will not accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop.

"That is consistent with our meeting with him on Tuesday. I have had two really busy days of meetings in London.

"MPs want a deal, but Parliament will not accept a deal which undermines the Union by placing a tariff border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain."

The DUP leader continued: "We will be working with the Government to get a sensible deal which works for all parts of the UK, as well as our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland.

"Those who spend their time talking about hard borders and Army checkpoints do themselves a disservice.

"They should stop their blatant scaremongering and focus their energies on securing a deal which unionists and nationalists can buy into."

Responding to the Prime Minister's announcement, SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan said: "Ripping Northern Ireland out of the customs union and single market is fundamentally incompatible with avoiding a hard border.

"One way or another, a backstop - whatever you want to call it or dress it up as - is the only way to protect the people, communities and businesses on this island.

"Boris Johnson would be better off respecting the will of people in the North than pandering to DUP hardliners."

Sinn Fein MP Chris Hazzard said: "The Irish backstop is designed for the unique circumstances of the North of Ireland and to avoid any hardening of the border. It is the only deal on the table and Boris Johnson previously voted for it.

"It would be incredibly naive of anyone to set any store in anything Boris Johnson says from one day to the next."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said: "If the Prime Minister is genuine in wanting a Brexit deal, then he cannot evade the requirement for either the UK-wide or Northern Ireland-specific backstop."

"Any backstop needs to be more than a fix around agri-food. (there needs to be) comprehensive protection for the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts.

"The Prime Minister is otherwise deluding himself and heading towards a catastrophic no-deal outcome. In that regard, it will fall to Parliament to continue to block him."

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