Belfast Telegraph

DUP's Foster tells Tories UK can secure a better deal

Speech: Arlene Foster
Speech: Arlene Foster
Adrian Rutherford

BY Adrian Rutherford

Arlene Foster has called for the UK to flex its muscles and secure a better Brexit deal.

The DUP leader addressed a gathering of Conservative members in England last night, where she urged the Government not to underestimate its influence.

It came as Prime Minister Theresa May accused Labour of planning a “betrayal of the British people” by voting down her Brexit deal and pushing the country towards a no-deal departure from the EU.

With 10 days to go to the historic House of Commons vote on her plan, the Prime Minister urged all MPs — including 100 or more Tories who have said they may rebel — to cast their vote “in the national interest” and back a deal which she said would deliver Brexit while protecting jobs.

The DUP has said Mrs May’s Brexit plan is “worse than no deal”, and has vowed to vote against it on December 11.

In an address to Royal Sutton Coldfield Conservative Association last night, Mrs Foster said: “We are not campaigning for a no-deal exit nor do we want barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and our neighbours in the Republic.

“No one will erect hard borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“Indeed, it is interesting to note that the only hard border erected is against Northern Ireland fishermen by the Irish which ensures Northern Ireland fishermen cannot fish in Irish coastal waters. This is not acceptable and runs contrary to their argument around no hard borders.

“Does anyone for a moment think that the EU states don’t desperately want a deal by March? It is wrong to assume that the UK has no leverage, but we have to ensure we use it.”

On a visit to Co Down yesterday, the Secretary of State said the draft deal would place Northern Ireland in an “unrivalled” global position to attract future foreign investment.

Addressing business representative, Karen Bradley said that while the agreement on the table could deliver an economic boon for the region — she warned that a no deal would threaten jobs and create more division in society.

Outlining her view of the deal’s potential benefits for the UK, she said: “We will be able to strike free trade deals around the world and let me just put this in context for Northern Ireland.

“Northern Ireland with a land border to the EU and trade with the EU, but being able to access free trade deals around the world puts Northern Ireland in an unrivalled position in the world as a destination for foreign direct investment and that is what I want to see for Northern Ireland.”

She added: “If we reject this deal we will go back to square one.”

Separately, at the G20 summit in Argentina, Mrs May declined to discuss whether she might offer a ‘plan B’ if her deal is voted down, or whether defeat could mean her resigning or being forced out.

“It’s not about me,” said Mrs May. “This is about what is in the national interest. It’s about delivering the vote to leave the EU and doing it in a way that protects people’s jobs and livelihoods and protects our security and our United Kingdom.

Turning her fire on Jeremy Corbyn, she said: “What I see from Labour is an attempt to frustrate what the Government is doing to deliver Brexit for the British people.

“That is actually a betrayal of the British people.”

Speaking at the G20, European Council president Donald Tusk warned that Mrs May’s withdrawal agreement is “the only possible one” and voting it down will either lead to a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit at all.

In a blow to Mrs May last night, Sam Gyimah, the universities and science minister, resigned in protest at the Government’s “naive” Brexit plan, saying that any deal we strike with Brussels will be “EU first”.

He is the seventh member of the Government to quit since the PM unveiled the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

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