Belfast Telegraph

DUP leader reveals ‘useful discussion’ with PM ahead of confidence vote

Arlene Foster said the issue of the backstop needs to be dealt with.

Arlene Foster has said she had a “useful discussion” with Theresa May and confirmed the party will support the Prime Minister in Wednesday’s confidence vote.

The DUP leader said she had indicated during a meeting in London, which was also attended by the party’s Westminster leader Nigel Dodds, that her party “will act in the national interest”.

She added that the issue of the backstop, the main sticking point for the DUP in Mrs May’s rejected Withdrawal Agreement, “needs to be dealt with and we will continue to work to that end”.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Mrs Foster said: “These are critical times for the United Kingdom and we have indicated that first and foremost we will act in the national interest.

“Lessons will need to be learned from the vote in Parliament.

I hope that our Prime Minister uses that vote last night to go to Europe and to look for a better deal. Arlene Foster

“The issue of the backstop needs to be dealt with and we will continue to work to that end.”

She confirmed the party will vote in support of the Government “so that we can concentrate on the real challenges ahead of us”.

There will be “further engagements in the coming days”, she added.

Speaking to the Press Association Mrs Foster said she told Mrs May her view is that “we should use the scale of that (Tuesday’s) defeat to go back to Brussels and argue very strongly for the backstop to be looked at again and dealt with in a meaningful way so that we can get a withdrawal agreement that works for the European Union, but also works for the United Kingdom as a whole”.

She added: “If we want a deal, and we do want a deal, and if Europe wants a deal then let us come back to the table and get that deal.

“It’s not a question of opening up the whole withdrawal agreement. It is dealing with that single issue of the backstop.”

Earlier, Mrs Foster said she would urge the Prime Minister to go back to Europe and seek a better deal, and called on the Irish Government to help find solutions to Brexit.

She also claimed there had never been a hard border on the island of Ireland.

She told Northern Ireland-based U105 radio: “For those of us who lived on the border and who were attacked by the IRA, we know that the IRA escaped across that border so it was not a hard border, nobody wants to go back to that.

“It takes the will to look for solutions and the regrettable thing is the Republic of Ireland has not been in the solution-finding mode.

“I hope that they are now, I hope that our Prime Minister uses that vote last night to go to Europe and to look for a better deal.”

Asked if she stood by her border comments in the face of criticism, she told the Press Association: “I was simply saying that even then (during the Troubles) it was not hermetically sealed.

“What we need to see is no infrastructure on the border and our own Government has committed to that.

“I understand that the Republic of Ireland’s Government has committed to that as well because there are other ways to deal with customs and trade and regulatory alignment.”

The DUP’s 10 MPs voted against Theresa May’s draft EU Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday.

Opposition had focused on the backstop, an insurance policy to avoid a hard Irish border after Brexit.

Press Association

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