Foster says DUP wants prosperous trading relationships across Ireland
Arlene Foster has said the DUP is prepared to be flexible and consider "Northern Ireland-specific solutions" to break the Brexit impasse.
The DUP leader was addressing Dublin Chamber of Commerce last night.
She said she was open to compromise so long as the constitutional position of Northern Ireland was recognised and no new trade barriers were created within the UK.
She told members that her party was wrongly presented as supporting no-deal which was "no one's preferred outcome and not of itself a final destination".
She also said DUP politicians were willing to "place our shoulders to the wheel" in efforts to restore Stormont power-sharing.
Mrs Foster told her audience the DUP was "prepared to be flexible and look at Northern Ireland-specific solutions achieved with the support and consent of the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland".
She said: "We want to have prosperous trading relationships across the island and allow businesses to get back to investing in the future with confidence.
"There are some sectors of the economy in particular where the nature of the supply chains are significantly integrated and we believe, with flexibility on all sides, that solutions can be found that will not on the one hand erect new barriers to trade within the UK while not damaging the integrity of the EU Single Market."
Mrs Foster said that as the leader of unionism in Northern Ireland, she wanted to reassure the Republic "as your neighbours and regardless of the final outcomes on Brexit we must work together in the future as friends and neighbours".
She continued: "We must do so in a spirit of co-operation recognising that through mutual respect and co-operative working we can successfully deliver for all those who, whether they live in Northern Ireland or the Republic, call this island home. For my part, I know we can do that for the benefit of all our citizens without compromising the constitutional arrangements."
The DUP leader said her party recognised that many in the Republic were "shocked and disappointed" at the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum.
"I respect the fact that Ireland has sought to bring about solutions which would keep the UK in the closest possible future relationship with the EU," she said.
"But equally Ireland has to recognise that the referendum result has to be upheld and that ultimately it is for the Government of the UK to determine whether future arrangements are compatible with the referendum result."
Mrs Foster insisted that a Brexit deal would not be achieved if that involves a backstop, whether it is UK-wide or Northern Ireland-specific.
"Those who know anything about Northern Ireland will appreciate that long-term arrangements cannot be secured in Northern Ireland unless supported by a majority of unionists and nationalists," she said.
"The majority of unionists do not and will not support the arrangements as envisaged in the backstop as set out in the draft withdrawal agreement.
"Some commentators say DUP influence in Westminster is on the wane and that a deal can be achieved without DUP input.
"The reality, however, is that regardless of particular numbers, no agreement will pass Parliament without the buy-in of the unionist community."
The DUP leader said Northern Ireland must leave the customs union and the single market with the rest of the UK.
"Northern Ireland trades more within the United Kingdom single market than all other markets combined - 73% of all goods leaving Belfast Port are bound for Great Britain," she said.
"While recognising the importance of north-south trade, economically Northern Ireland is integrated with the Great Britain market in a way that cannot be damaged if our economy is to flourish."
Mrs Foster argued that the DUP's "incredible influence" at Westminster, through its confidence and supply deal with the Tories and the extra funding secured for Northern Ireland, "is not a barrier to devolution but rather should help oil the wheels of devolution".
Earlier, the DUP leader told UTV that her party would consider a Brexit deal that didn't include a role for Stormont. She denied that the DUP was softening its position on Brexit and said Brussels must listen to both communities in Northern Ireland.
"There are no unionist MLAs who support the backstop at present so there is a need to find a way forward which everybody can buy into," she added.