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Arlene Foster tells Prime Minister to 'stop wasting time' on Brexit deal - says DUP open to Norway-style deal

DUP Leader Arlene Foster pictured with Diane Dodds.
DUP Leader Arlene Foster pictured with Diane Dodds.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has called on Theresa May to "not waste time" on her Brexit deal and instead look for a better solution to the Irish border.

Reiterating that her party's 10 MPs would not support the Prime Minister's Withdrawal Agreement when it comes to

She said she would not join calls for a second vote as "the referendum vote at a national level was to leave and we respect that".

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mrs Foster said the current proposals contain "68 pages of regulations that will apply to Northern Ireland and will not apply to the rest of the UK".

"There is a huge democratic deficit coming our way if we agree to this deal, because we've no say over the rules that will apply to Northern Ireland," she added.

Ms Foster said Theresa May's Brexit deal would see Northern Ireland "diverge off from the United Kingdom" as she called on her to "look for a better deal" that "takes back control of of our money, of our borders and of our laws".

The DUP leader said: "All the things that made us vote for Brexit are the things that are going to be imposed on Northern Ireland."

She also hinted that if Mrs May's current Withdrawal Agreement fails to get through the Commons, her party could be open to a so-called "Norway-plus" style arrangement, where the whole of the UK stays in the customs union until an agreement with the EU is reached on future trading relations.

That could solve the issue of the Irish border and make the backstop redundant although there would need to be a new customs arrangement to completely avoid the need for infrastructure on the border. However, under a Norway agreement, the UK would have to accept the four freedoms of the single market - the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons - unless it could prove that be maintaining the principles it would face serious economic, societal or environmental strain and therefore opt out.

The Norway premier, however, has said there could be difficulties in allowing a new member that would essentially be seeking to leave and it could take up to 12 months for talks on allowing it to become a member.

Ms Foster says the DUP's "one red line" is to make sure Northern Ireland is not differentiated from the rest of the UK in terms of customs and is "not prescriptive" about other potential options on the future relationship with the EU.

Asked why she supported a divergence from the UK in terms of same-sex marriage and not on Brexit changes, the DUP leader said that was because social matters were devolved to Stormont whereas customs and trade matters were for Westminster to handle.

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