Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson's deal has breached the principle of consent: Arlene Foster

Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

The principle of consent enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement has been breached over Brexit, Arlene Foster has said.

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The DUP leader was critical of Boris Johnson's deal, which the party has claimed would create an economic border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

Launching the party's election manifesto in Belfast yesterday, Mrs Foster said the principle of requiring unionist consent to constitutional change affecting Northern Ireland had been breached for the first time over Brexit.

"We have to trust ourselves and know what we want to get out of any deal and the issues around customs, goods coming from the mainland to Northern Ireland, and indeed goods going from Northern Ireland to the mainland, is a key issue that we need to get clarity on," she said.

"The current consent mechanism goes against the Belfast Agreement.

"There has to be agreement from the majority of unionists and the majority of nationalists; this is the first time that has been breached and we cannot accept that."

Loyalists have held meetings across Northern Ireland opposed to what they say will be the creation of an "economic united Ireland" under the Prime Minister's deal.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

Reference to an "armed struggle" if Northern Ireland's position in the UK is threatened was made during a recent meeting in Portadown.

Mrs Foster said: "We abhor violence, always have done, and always will do. We do not have any truck with anybody who would advocate that sort of thing."

Deputy leader Nigel Dodds said a vote for the DUP on December 12 will be a vote to work for a sensible Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.

Mr Dodds said every DUP vote was crucial to protecting the interests of Northern Ireland, which will mean demanding further changes to Boris Johnson's deal.

"There can be no borders in the Irish Sea," said Mr Dodds, currently locked in a tight battle to hold on to his North Belfast seat as he faces a challenge from Sinn Fein's John Finucane.

"We will work to try to get a sensible Brexit deal. But it cannot erect new barriers."

Mrs Foster again rejected any notion of supporting a Jeremy Corbyn-led government in the event of a hung parliament. "It is not just about the company he kept in the past, it is what he believes now - how he is going to wreck the economy and take us back to a time when we did not have productivity, where people were leaving the UK," she said.

"I think that is a bad place to be, and of course we are concerned about the defence of our nation as well and we would be very worried about the fact that he would be in control of all of that."

Ms Foster also said she regrets that the Irish Language is being used as a barrier against the return of Stormont.

"We do not see the need for a full-blown, costly Irish Language Act which would bring about discrimination against those who do not speak the Irish language. There is a way forward, but there has to be a willingness to find that way forward."

Nigel Dodds added that once negotiations are concluded, there should be a "full and proper inquiry" into the Prime Minister's handling of Brexit.

"How can we have such a catastrophic conduct of negotiations in the most important issues of our time?" he asked.

Family income and security to fore in DUP’s manifesto pledges

Here are the main commitments in the party’s General Election manifesto:

Helping family incomes grow. That would include raising the personal tax allowance in line with inflation and an increase in the national living wage to £10.50. The party also proposed abolishing the BBC licence fee. It promised to work towards public sector pay rises, including the NHS and police.

More infrastructure investment. Considering an energy interconnector with Iceland, where geothermal energy is plentiful.

Security. Adequately funding the security forces and intelligence community to combat dissident republicans.

Legal protections for soldiers and veterans. The party supported the principle of exploring protections for the Armed Forces where they would not lead to an amnesty or be restricted to operations outside the UK.

It said the UK Cabinet should meet yearly in Belfast as part of a variety of measures designed to enhance the Union.

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