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DUP's Foster backs Boris Johnson's Brexit plan and says Good Friday Agreement not 'sacrosanct'

Arlene Foster has endorsed Boris Johnson's vision for Brexit. Pic Press Eye - file photo
Arlene Foster has endorsed Boris Johnson's vision for Brexit. Pic Press Eye - file photo
Arlene Foster has endorsed Boris Johnson's vision for Brexit. [file photo]
Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

DUP leader Arlene Foster praised Boris Johnson's "positive" Brexit vision saying it was wrong to think the Good Friday Agreement was "sacrosanct" in determining the final deal with the EU.

The MLA was speaking to the Daily Telegraph ahead of an appearance at an event at the Conservative Party conference on Tuesday.

She said it was wrong to suggest the 1998 peace accord could not be altered to accommodate the final Brexit deal.

“It has been deeply frustrating to hear people who voted remain and in Europe talk about Northern Ireland as though we can’t touch the Belfast Agreement. Things evolve, even in the EU context," Mrs Foster said.

“There has been a lot of misinterpretation, holding it up as a sacrosanct piece of legislation.”

The DUP, in 1998, did not back the Good Friday Agreement.

On Tuesday morning speaking to the news organisation Bloomberg Mrs foster said the agreement had been "changed on a number of occasions recently.. It has been changed by St Andrews, by the Stormont House Agreement. It is not something that should be treated as something which is infallible, it is a thing of its time and changable."

In the interview with the Daily Telegraph Arlene Foster said she would consider the final Brexit deal on the table before considering her party's stance, adding: "For me as a former lawyer I need to see the text, I’d have to see what that means for Northern Ireland in reality…all I can say to you is that whatever is proposed, we will look at our red line, we will judge it against that red line, and we will make a decision.”

In his Telegraph column Boris Johnson outlined his plan for Brexit urging Mrs May to "chuck Chequers" arguing for a deal based on the Canada agreement saying there was no need for a physical border between Northern Ireland and the Republic to ensure "the integrity of the single market".

Fermanagh MLA Foster endorsed the "belief and spirit" contained in his proposals.

She said the DUP's confidence and supply deal with the Conservatives was "party to party" and did not rely on Theresa May leading one side.

“Whoever leads the Conservative Party we will work with as it’s in the national interest. The reason we signed the agreement was to ensure Brexit.”

On Boris Johnson's plan, she said: "In terms of the need for aspiration I think it is important that people start to talk.

“I do get very frustrated about some people in the Conservative Party. Look, it’s happening, so therefore let’s make it as good as we possibly can, instead of all of this talk about a people’s vote."

She said one of her biggest disappointments was the Government's failure to "talk about the aspirations of the nation".

“We haven’t been able to talk about the aspirations for the nation, we’ve spent so much time arguing about what’s happened, is it going to be a disaster for Ireland in inverted commas...instead of actually focusing on what we can achieve in the UK with the Brexit negotiations," she said.

“What we want to see, and I’m not making a comparison between Boris and the Prime Minister, is belief. We want to see that spirit.”

On Monday Arlene Foster in a tweet pictured alongside former Brexit Secretary David Davis said she was looking forward to a "busy few days" at the Conservative Party conference.

"It is an opportunity for us to engage with fellow unionists from throughout the UK and beyond. Together we are working to benefit everyone and ensure the needs of NI are understood," she said.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, speaking on Tuesday said his party would continue to support Theresa May in getting the best possible Brexit deal. He refused to be drawn on reports of a new proposal for the Irish border saying it had not been put to the party.

Boris Johnson while conceding there would need to be some extra procedures, he said they could be carried out away from the border "as they are, very largely, today".

The former foreign secretary said arrangements could be made to ensure the border works practically and businesses can use it smoothly and without hassle.

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