Foster warns PM ‘tinkering around edges’ of backstop is not enough
The DUP leader and deputy leader Nigel Dodds have told Theresa May that ‘fundamental changes’ to the Withdrawal Agreement must be delivered.
Arlene Foster has warned Theresa May that tinkering around the edges of the withdrawal deal will not be enough to win her support.
Amid the unfolding crisis around her leadership, the Prime Minister met the DUP leader and deputy leader Nigel Dodds on Wednesday to discuss Brexit.
Mrs Foster said she warned Mrs May that the controversial Irish border backstop proposal, which will tie Northern Ireland to certain European regulations if a wider UK/EU trade deal fails to materialise, was “dangerous” to the economy and Union.
“We emphasised that tinkering around the edges would not work,” the DUP leader said after the Westminster meeting.
“We were not seeking assurances or promises. We wanted fundamental legal text changes.”
Mrs Foster said Mrs May was well aware of her position.
For Northern Ireland traders to be expected to treat GB as a third country is ridiculous and was never going to receive support in Parliament Arlene Foster
“We have been consistent, which is why it is so frustrating that our warnings about the backstop have not been heeded,” she said.
“The DUP wants a sensible deal which our MPs can support in the House. Over the coming weeks, we will continue to work towards that.
“Unionism in Northern Ireland and across the House of Commons has rightly stood against this Withdrawal Agreement. It should be utterly unacceptable to any unionist.
“For Northern Ireland traders to be expected to treat GB as a third country is ridiculous and was never going to receive support in Parliament.”
Earlier, Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill insisted the backstop is the “only show in town” and must not fall victim to a Tory civil war.
The party vice president insisted the EU withdrawal treaty could not be renegotiated and called on the Irish government to “remain firm” despite the “debacle” at Westminster.
She said the controversial backstop was a “bottom line”.
Regardless of who leads the British Government, they will always prioritise British interests first. For us, it is about working with the Dublin Government and the EU27, to prioritise Irish interests. https://t.co/rNKYrAogDV— Michelle O’Neill (@moneillsf) December 12, 2018
“It is about making sure the backstop is the only show in town, it is the bottom line, it is the insurance policy,” she said.
Mrs O’Neill urged the Irish government to hold its nerve before she travelled to Dublin for talks with deputy premier Simon Coveney.
“Regardless of what goes on at Westminster, the backstop has to be firm, it has to be a commitment, it has to be something that everything stands by,” she said.
Sinn Fein’s Stormont leader said the UK Government was only interested in British interests and the Dublin government and other EU nations had to protect the interests of the people of Ireland.
“Brexit was conceived because of the Tory civil war,” she said.
“Brexit is a disaster because of the Tory civil war and the leadership challenge is the latest battle in that same civil war.
“Regardless of who leads the British Government, they will always prioritise British interests first.
“For us, it is about working with the Dublin government and the EU27 to prioritise Irish interests.
“We cannot allow Ireland or Irish interests to become collateral damage of infighting within a Tory Party that cares nothing for our economy or our citizens.
“The Tory Party can decide who they want to lead them but they cannot be allowed to dictate any renegotiation or dilution of the backstop.”