Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster pays tribute to Theresa May with PM set to stand down

DUP leader Arlene Foster with Theresa May. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)
DUP leader Arlene Foster with Theresa May. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/PA)

DUP leader Arlene Foster has paid tribute to outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May.

Mrs May announced on Friday morning that she would resign as Conservative Party leader on June 7, with a leadership contest to begin the following week.

While the DUP were strongly opposed to Mrs May's Brexit deal, Mrs Foster said that the DUP had worked closely with the PM to achieve the Confidence and Supply Agreement.

"Whilst at times there were differences in our approach, particularly on Brexit, we enjoyed a respectful and courteous relationship," the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said.

"In particular, I commend and thank the Prime Minister for her dutiful approach on national issues and her willingness to recognise Northern Ireland’s need for additional resources through Confidence and Supply arrangements.

"I pay tribute to her selfless service in the interests of the United Kingdom and wish her well for the future.”

Mrs Foster's deputy Nigel Dodds tweeted that he had "always found the Prime Minister very courteous and pleasant to work with on a personal basis" despite their political differences.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said that Mrs May's resignation could not be allowed to derail talks aiming to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

“Following the British General election Theresa May prioritised a deal with the DUP at Westminster over re-establishing the power-sharing institutions," Mrs McDonald said.

“This Tory/DUP deal has had a negative influence on the political process

Prime Minister Theresa May with First Secretary of State Damian Green (far right), Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, and DUP Deputy Leader
Nigel Dodds, as DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson shakes hands with
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Chief Whip Gavin Williamson inside 10 Downing Street in June 2017 to seal the confidence and supply deal.
Prime Minister Theresa May with First Secretary of State Damian Green (far right), Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, and DUP Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds, as DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson shakes hands with Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Chief Whip Gavin Williamson inside 10 Downing Street in June 2017 to seal the confidence and supply deal.

“Theresa May set unrealisable red lines in the Brexit negotiations and only eventually accepted the need for a Backstop as the bare minimum to avoid a hard border."

Mrs McDonald said that an agreement could be reached to restore Stormont.

“The people want and need a resolution to the impasse in the north to the issues which led to the collapse of the institutions," she said.

“An agreement can be reached and a deal can be done. But the process must not be derailed nor responsibility abdicated in respect of people’s rights and agreements.”

UUP leader Robin Swann praised Mrs May personally and said that she loved her country and was committed to the union.

However, he said that a change of leader would not necessarily solve the Brexit crisis and the Irish border backstop must be dealt with.

“The country is deeply divided and the Prime Minister`s successor will have to seek to heal those divisions whilst delivering a Brexit which maintains the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom," Mr Swann said.

"The new Prime Minister should have all four corners of our nation at the forefront of their thinking when they are making defining decisions about the future direction of the United Kingdom. They should have an absolute commitment to the maintenance of the Union and the prosperity of all its people.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that the Brexit situation had led to Mrs May's downfall.

He said that Brexit was "fundamentally an undeliverable prospect".

“I have disagreed with Theresa May almost every single step of the way over the course of the last three years," the Foyle MLA said.

"Triggering Article 50 with no plan to prevent a hard border in Ireland, reneging politically on the agreed terms of the backstop and stubbornly refusing to call a halt to the madness that has consumed Westminster.

"It is undeniable, however, that she has exhausted every avenue to find agreement in the House of Commons. The simple fact remains, however, that there is clearly no consensus to be found.

“The European Union has already said very clearly that the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation. A new Prime Minister should recognise the mistakes made by Theresa May, revoke Article 50 and put an end to this political, diplomatic and economic car crash.”

The Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Camber of Commerce and Industry thanked Mrs May for her recent visits to Northern Ireland.

“Any leadership contest must be swift and followed urgently by a clear plan to break the impasse. Westminster has already squandered far too much time going around in circles on Brexit," Ann McGregor said.

“Regardless of who is in Downing Street, a new Prime Minister must work to avert a messy and disorderly exit from the EU and provide firms with stability and answers. They will expect practical solutions to a number of issues that are still unclear ranging from trade agreements, migration rules and customs.”

Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said that Mrs May left the UK in a worse place than she found it.

“No matter who now replaces her, the same problems will still persist – they will face stark choices regarding Brexit and its consequences, and they need to approach them with honesty and realism," he said.

“Given the time needed to conduct the process to select a new Conservative leader and Prime Minister, it is likely another extension to Article 50 will be required, if we are to not leave the EU with no deal. The next Prime Minister must push for a People’s Vote and allow people to Remain now they know the mess Brexit will bring.”

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