Belfast Telegraph

Foster: No shift in DUP stance on Brexit deal

Agreement: Arlene Foster
Agreement: Arlene Foster

By Cate McCurry

DUP leader Arlene Foster has called for the result of the Brexit referendum to be respected, adding that the UK should leave the EU sensibly.

She told members of the business community in north Belfast yesterday that the fundamental issues of the withdrawal agreement "have not changed".

"The Prime Minister wants to secure a deal before the UK leaves the European Union," she added.

"We will give every assistance in trying to secure a deal. That has always been our position."

She made the comments as PM Boris Johnson faces pressure to stop calling the law blocking no-deal the "surrender act".

The so-called Benn Law demands that Mr Johnson seeks an extension if a Brexit deal has not been secured by October 19.

Mrs Foster said she wants an agreement that works for Northern Ireland and the Republic.

She added: "That agreement must be one which can be supported by both unionists and nationalists, however. Not one single unionist MLA supports the withdrawal agreement, which is one reason why it has floundered."

On speculation of a general election, she said: "If an election is called, we will stand on our record of delivery and seek more votes to increase Northern Ireland's influence in Parliament.

"With another hung Parliament being predicted, people know it was the DUP who delivered more money for schools, roads and hospitals.

"It was the DUP who delivered £150m to bring faster broadband to homes and businesses.

"What other parties do in that election is a matter for them. Their policy agreement appears to go no further than a desire to attack the DUP. No other party has delivered a single extra penny for Northern Ireland."

Mrs Foster also accused Sinn Fein of "punishing" the public with their "narrow demands" over restoration of the Executive, which collapsed in January 2017.

She claimed she would "restore devolution today".

"I would appoint ministers today. Our schools and hospitals need decisions made," she added.

"We would like to see more engagement and commitment from Sinn Fein to show they are sincere about restoring the Assembly and Executive. Their narrow demands are punishing the public, who deserve to have local representatives taking decisions on their behalf.

"You have my pledge to enter the Executive without precondition. Every other party in Northern Ireland must step forward and state whether they can make that pledge to the public."

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