Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland business owner with 300 employees opposes deal, says Arlene Foster

Arlene Foster has said she has spoken to a businessman with 300 employees who opposes the draft Brexit withdrawal deal.

The DUP leader made the remark while being questioned about the apparent growing schism between business groups in Northern Ireland and her party over differing view on the proposed agreement.

Business groups, including national business group CBI, small business group the FSB, and the Ulster Farmers' Union have given their backing to Theresa May's draft Brexit deal - something which has drawn the ire of the DUP.

DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson told the News Letter the groups were being used as "puppets".

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday evening Mrs Foster said: "First of all a section of the business community has come out in favour of this deal, and there are many in the business community who are not in favour of this deal.

"I have met with those people today. I have met with a gentleman who runs a business with 300 people employed, £70m of turnover, and he's absolutely outraged by the suggestion this deal should come in."

Mrs Foster said it was a bad deal as it will put "more cost" and "more regulation" on businesses in Northern Ireland.

Pushed on whether the business man would be speaking publicly, Mrs Foster said the press will "hear from him and you will hear from many others as well".

She added it was important to listen to "a wide range of businesses and not just those businesses who find time to go along with the CBI and FSB".

"There are many businesses in Northern Ireland who don’t have time to engage in those activities but who have a very clear view of this withdrawal agreement," she said.

Mrs Foster confirmed the confidence-and-supply agreement with the Conservative Government was still in place and that the agreement is "not just about money, it’s about making sure the union is secure".

Theresa May is set to meet with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss the political declaration on the future EU-UK relations, with attempts to remove her from office by hard Brexiters having abated.

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