Belfast Telegraph

Prime Minister May's Brexit speech 'basis for moving forward,' says DUP's Foster

UK will 'help find a solution' to the Irish border, says PM

DUP leader Arlene Foster has said the Prime Minister's keynote address on future relations with the EU is a basis for progression and achieving a "sustainable future".

Mrs May, speaking on Friday, told EU leaders she would not "allow anything that would damage the integrity of our precious union". 

She also addressed the issue of a border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, saying the UK had a responsibility to "help find a solution".

The Prime Minister again repeated there would be no border in the Irish Sea.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said the speech "set forward the basis upon which it would be possible to move forward".

She said: "The issues facing both the United Kingdom and the European Union are of fundamental importance and it is vital that we achieve outcomes that are sustainable for the future.

"I welcome the Prime Minister’s clear commitment that she will not countenance any new border being created in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland goods must have unfettered access to trade into Great Britain and the same must apply to Great Britain goods entering Northern Ireland.

"Indeed, it is particularly welcome that one of the ‘five tests’ is strengthening the Union."

We want to see a sensible Brexit that works for everyone. Arlene Foster

Mrs Foster continued: "Securing a sensible outcome for everyone will require the EU27 to consider innovative solutions rather than rule out any proposal which has not been conceived in Brussels. As Michel Barnier himself has said “the solution cannot be based on a precedent.”

"Last August’s United Kingdom proposals were innovative but did not receive a fair hearing in many quarters. Those proposals can ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after we exit the EU.

"We want to see an outcome that protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom but one that also enables us to have a good trading relationship with our nearest neighbours.

"The Northern Ireland section of the draft legal text published by the EU, has not only been rejected as unacceptable by the Government but also the Labour Party, thus reinforcing the fact that no United Kingdom Prime Minister could accept such a concept.

"A Democratic Unionist delegation will be meeting Michel Barnier on Tuesday in Brussels. Our message will be clear.  We want to see a sensible Brexit that works for everyone."

In the high-profile speech at London’s Mansion House, the Prime Minister set out five “foundations” to underpin the new relationship – including binding commitments to fair competition and a new arbitration mechanism to resolve disputes.

On Northern Ireland, she said: "Successive British governments have worked tirelessly together with all the parties in Northern Ireland and with the Irish government to bring about the historic achievement of peace."

Prime Minister’s commitment to work for a solution on the border is a belated recognition of reality. Colum Eastwood

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Theresa May had "failed" to provide answers to how to solve the Irish border question.

"We have now had three keynote speeches from Theresa May on Brexit – none of them has offered any solutions to the border question in Ireland," he said.

“The Prime Minister’s commitment to work for a solution on the border is a belated recognition of reality, however that commitment is severely undermined in the same speech when she advocated the very same customs proposals which were widely and comprehensively dismissed last year."

He added: "Northern Ireland should remain in the single market and the customs union to avoid a hard border in Ireland. To avoid a border in the Irish Sea, the island of Britain should remain in the customs union and the single market.

“This is the only solution that will stop a hard border, it is the only solution that protects businesses and workers and it is the only solution that protects the Good Friday Agreement.

The Foyle MLA added: "Today’s speech again revealed the internal chaos at the heart of the British Government.

"The truth is that this remains a negotiation between members of the British Cabinet in London rather than a negotiation with the European Commission in Brussels. The British Prime Minister is more concerned with balancing the dogmas of her divided Cabinet rather than balancing the interests of our peoples.

"Faced with that vacuum of leadership and common sense, it is vital that the majority of people in Northern Ireland who voted to remain, alongside the Irish Government, stand together and stand firm to ensure that our political and economic future is not in the gift of this British Government.”

Sinn Fein's president Mary Lou McDonald (Niall Carson/PA)

Sinn Fein President, Mary Lou McDonald, said: "Today, Theresa May failed to grasp the hard truths and realities that we face.

“The hard truth is that Brexit is incompatible with the wishes of the people of the north, acts against our economy and undermines our agreements.

“The British Government knows this and that is why they have failed to bring forward any workable solutions or new thinking."

Ms McDonald  added: "The way forward for the island of Ireland is clear;

“To avoid a hard border then the north must remain within the customs union and single market.

“To remain true to the Good Friday Agreement the North must be designated special status with the EU including safeguarding the rights of EU citizens and all Ireland co-operation.

“The Irish government and the EU must make clear that there can be no undermining of the agreements and no hard border in Ireland.”

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