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Theresa May's victory does not change anything, says DUP's Foster


The PM speaking after the result was declared
The PM speaking after the result was declared
Sir Graham Brady announces that Mrs May has survived the no-confidence vote
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster has said that Theresa May's survival as Tory party leader changes nothing for the DUP on Brexit.

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Mrs Foster said alterations were still needed to the withdrawal agreement if it is to secure the support of her 10 MPs in Parliament.

Speaking last night after the Prime Minister won a no-confidence vote among Conservative MPs, the DUP leader said: "The business of the 1922 Committee is entirely that.

"It is not a matter for the DUP and doesn't change the arithmetic of the Parliament. Our focus and objective is to defeat the backstop. We will work over the coming weeks to achieve that.

"Clarifications or assurances won't be enough. We need legal changes."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said: "Now that the question of the leadership of the Conservative Party has been settled, we need to see the Prime Minister and her Government working to ensure that our concerns in relation to the backstop are addressed.

"It is vital that minds now focus on the most important task at hand - to make sure that the UK leaves the EU with a deal that works for the nation in its entirety.

"The Prime Minister must return to the negotiating table to get a deal which preserves the economic and constitutional integrity of the UK.

"And if more time is needed to get the right deal, then the Prime Minister should seek to extend Article 50 and ensure that we don't leave with 'no-deal'."

TUV leader Jim Allister said: "With almost 40% of Conservative MPs declaring no confidence in the Prime Minister, she is now a lame duck leader who survived by committing to resign before the next election.

"The greatest encouragement I draw from this result is that her chances of getting her sellout Brexit deal through Parliament have diminished further." Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said the UK was in "a massive political mess".

He said: "The Brexit stand-off is a huge self-inflicted wound. The confidence vote for the Prime Minister leaves her in a weakened position.

"But the UK can't afford a prolonged leadership contest or a general election."

Mr Farry warned that uncertainty was causing significant economic damage.

"A decision needs to be taken urgently between this deal or calling off Brexit," he added.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds last night said his party was concentrating on altering Mrs May's Brexit deal.

"Our focus has very much been on the withdrawal agreement and the changes that need to be made to it to get our support, and support across Parliament," he said.

"I don't think this vote really changes very much in terms of the arithmetic of that.

"We had a good meeting with the Prime Minster today, she understands what our concerns are about the legally binding and indefinite arrangements we are tied into.

"Whether or not she delivers anything that changes that remains to be seen. She knows what has to be done and hopefully that is what has got through."

In terms of trust, Mr Dodds stressed that it was actions not words that the DUP was interested in from the Prime Minister.

"There are commitments that haven't been lived up to in terms of actions, so whatever she says, it's whatever is delivered in the text that we'll be examining very closely," he said.

"We wouldn't be supporting (any Labour-tabled) no-confidence motion, it would be illogical to do this while we still have to wait for the outcome of the work the Prime Minister is now engaged in, and while we're still engaged in getting the withdrawal agreement changed."

Mr Dodds added: "Obviously, if the deal as it is currently proposed was to pass, that would be a different situation, but we're not at that stage."

Mr Dodds and Mrs Foster met the Prime Minister in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon.

The DUP leader said: "We emphasised that tinkering around the edges would not work.

"We were not seeking assurances or promises. We wanted fundamental legal text changes.

"We have been consistent, which is why it is so frustrating that our warnings about the backstop have not been heeded.

"The DUP wants a sensible deal which our MPs can support in the House. Over the coming weeks we will continue to work towards that."

Mrs Foster said unionism in Northern Ireland had rightly stood against the withdrawal agreement.

"It should be utterly unacceptable to any unionist," she stated.

"For Northern Ireland traders to be expected to treat GB as a third country is ridiculous and was never going to receive support in Parliament."

Earlier, Sinn Fein vice-president Michelle O'Neill insisted the backstop was the "only show in town" and must not fall victim to a Tory civil war.

Mrs O'Neill insisted the EU withdrawal treaty could not be renegotiated and called on the Irish Government to "remain firm" despite the "debacle" at Westminster. She said the backstop was a "bottom line".

"It is about making sure the backstop is the only show in town, it is the bottom line, it is the insurance policy," she added.

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