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Time for London, Dublin and EU to strike sensible Brexit deal, urges Foster

New Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves on the steps of 10 Downing Street after meeting the Queen yesterday
New Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves on the steps of 10 Downing Street after meeting the Queen yesterday
Karen Bradley
Fresh start: Arlene Foster
New Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith addresses the DUP conference
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Arlene Foster has said Boris Johnson's premiership offers the chance for a new Brexit deal and she has appealed to London, Dublin and Brussels to work tirelessly for a compromise.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said she would be seeking an urgent meeting with the new Prime Minister to discuss Brexit, the return of power-sharing, and a border poll.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, the DUP leader welcomed Mr Johnson's arrival in Downing Street.

"I trust this will be a fresh start for all involved in the negotiations as the UK exits the EU," she said.

"Whether in London or Brussels, or indeed Dublin, now is the time to work for a sensible deal.

"The intransigence of the last three years must be left behind or else we are destined for a WTO (no deal) exit in October."

Mrs Foster welcomed Mr Johnson's commitment to be a Prime Minister for all of the UK, and said she looked forward to him visiting Northern Ireland soon.

Ms McDonald said she had written to Mr Johnson seeking a meeting with him.

"I have reminded the new Prime Minister of the requirement of the British Government to honour and implement their commitments under the Good Friday and subsequent agreements, agreements that are incompatible with Brexit," she said.

"The people of the North voted to remain within the EU and that vote must be respected.

"There is a pressing need to restore the power-sharing institutions in the North, which has been held up by the DUP's continued denial of rights and the continued operation of that party's confidence-and-supply agreement with the Tories."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Johnson had "failed to break the habit of a lifetime" in his first speech as Prime Minister.

"Bloated with bluff, but short on solutions, he must face the reality that no amount of flag-waving or saccharine patriotic populism will resolve the challenges Brexit poses," Mr Eastwood said.

"There is absolutely no evidence that this administration is prepared to make the brave compromise needed to protect the interests of people, communities and businesses in Northern Ireland.

"A 'can-do spirit' won't negate tariffs for the agri-food sector, it won't conjure supply lines for vital medicines and it wont remove the need for the backstop."

The SDLP leader said Mr Johnson's Government "must face reality" or we were headed for a no-deal Brexit which would be disastrous for Northern Ireland.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann described Mr Johnson's first speech in Downing Street as "certainly positive and reflected unbridled optimism for the future of our country".

Mr Swann said: "I sincerely hope that these sentiments are reflected in the actual delivery and I look forward to seeing the plans to make this happen.

"Rhetoric alone will not solve our problems.

"A short window of opportunity exists for the UK and the EU to reach a deal.

"I hope that the EU - and the Republic of Ireland in particular - use the time to engage positively with the UK Government.

"A deal can be done, but only if the political leaders involved get down off their soapboxes."

The UUP leader continued: "I also welcome the Prime Minister's comments about the future of the Union and that the anti-democratic backstop will be addressed, so that it no longer threatens the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom."

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said: "Boris Johnson's speech was full of bluster, wishful thinking and empty promises.

"Brexit remains a huge, self-inflicted wound which will undermine the economy and the capacity public spending.

"The withdrawal agreement, and the backstop itself, are not up for renegotiation."

Alliance leader Naomi Long wished Theresa May well, but said her legacy could be the damage done by Brexit.

"On a personal level, I always found Theresa May courteous and dignified in all of our meetings, attributes which she also demonstrated more widely as Prime Minister," the MEP said.

"Her sense of duty, her commitment to public service and her resilience were admirable and clear for all to see.

"There is no doubting she took on a difficult job, but it can also not be argued she made things more difficult for herself by continually presenting mutually contradictory red lines on Brexit, particularly relating to Northern Ireland and the border."

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