Belfast Telegraph

Watch: DUP backs Parliament suspension as it eyes renewal of confidence and supply deal

Arlene Foster said there was ‘nothing unusual’ about Boris Johnson’s plan.

By David Young and Michael McHugh, PA

Boris Johnson’s DUP allies have welcomed his move to suspend Parliament, with party leader Arlene Foster insisting he is “well within his rights”.

Mrs Foster said there was “nothing unusual” about the Prime Minister’s move.

She said it had been the longest parliamentary session since the Union of England and Scotland in 1707 and Mr Johnson, as a new leader, was entitled to set out his domestic agenda.

Mrs Foster, who spoke directly with Mr Johnson on Wednesday, said the Queen’s speech would also provide an opportunity to bring focus on Northern Ireland, with the renewal of her party’s confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives.

It gives us the opportunity... to bring a focus back to Northern Ireland again, particularly around the confidence and supply agreement Arlene Foster

The two-year parliamentary deal saw the DUP secure £1 billion of investment in Northern Ireland in return for propping up the minority Conservative administration.

Talks between the DUP and Conservatives about a renewed agreement are ongoing ahead of the Queen’s speech.

Mrs Foster said the DUP would continue its work with the Prime Minister to strengthen the Union, deliver a “sensible EU exit deal” and restore devolution in Northern Ireland.

“I think the Prime Minister is well within his rights to look for a Queen’s speech – he wants to set out his domestic agenda,” she said.

“It gives us the opportunity here in Northern Ireland, through ourselves, to bring a focus back to Northern Ireland again, particularly around the confidence and supply agreement, and I look forward to engaging with the Prime Minister over the coming weeks.”

Mrs Foster said Parliament would only be in suspension for four days more than originally envisaged during the break for conference season.

“There will be ample time to discuss Brexit if MPs want to discuss that before the European Council, which I understand is on the October 17th, and indeed after the European Council as well,” she added.

Asked whether the DUP could become isolated in Northern Ireland after the Ulster Unionist Party criticised Mr Johnson’s move as an “abuse of process”, Mrs Foster said: “The Ulster unionist party will have to answer for themselves.

“All I know is the Prime Minister is entitled to go to her Majesty the Queen, seek a new Queen’s Speech, particularly as a new leader and new prime minister he wants to set out his domestic agenda and I don’t think there’s anything unusual about that.”

Mrs Foster rejected the suggestion the Queen had been placed in a difficult position.

“She has very clear constitutional roles and she will know that,” said the DUP leader.

DUP Assembly Chief Whip Gordon Lyons MLA said: "Sinn Fein have a cheek to complain about the prorogation of Parliament, meaning that it will be sitting for four fewer days than would otherwise have been the case, when they have been responsible for the Assembly being closed for the last two and a half years.

"They have rode roughshod over the people of Northern Ireland for over 900 days, leaving them without either an Assembly or Executive and allowing hundreds of decisions to go unmade.

"Their criticisms of the Prime Minister only serve to highlight their own hypocrisy.  The people of Northern Ireland can only hope that Sinn Fein’s new found love for the legislature extends to Stormont and that they end their boycott of the Assembly and allow MLAs to legislate on behalf of people here."

PA

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