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Trust your unionist instincts, Arlene Foster tells Prime Minister ahead of Brexit summit

Jonathan Bell

By Jonathan Bell

Arlene Foster's message to the Prime Minister ahead of a major EU summit in Brussels is to "trust her unionist instincts".

EU leaders are to meet on Wednesday evening. European Council President Donald Tusk has said he wants "concrete proposals" from the UK warning there was no grounds for optimism and a no deal "more likely than ever.

Arlene Foster's message comes after the DUP threatened to frustrate the work of Theresa May's government in passing legislation in the Commons should any Brexit deal appear to damage the union.

The DUP leader also rejected reports of a challenge to her own leadership from within the ranks of the party saying she had its full support

On Monday evening and after the Prime Minister updated parliament on the progress of the latest round of Brexit talks, the DUP's deputy leader said he was encouraged by some of the noises from Theresa May's statement but said some of her answers to MPs  clouded the situation.

She repeatedly refused to say if any backstop agreement on the Irish border would be time limited.

"If there was a suggestion the union, 'our precious union' as the Prime Minister described it be broken up or fractured in any way by the Conservative party, then clearly we would have to say 'how can we continue to implement your domestic agenda, your budgets and everything else?'" Nigel Dodds said.

"Of course we wouldn't push for a general election but there comes a point when you have to say 'enough is enough'."

The DUP has a confidence and supply deal with the Tories which sees the party support the minority government on key legislation. As rumours gathered pace the DUP could withdraw support for this month's budget potentially sparking a general election, Mrs Foster said Nigel Dodds was pointing out there were many other options short of a return to the polls.

Arlene Foster - asked by the BBC if she and the party could trust the Prime Minister - said they just wanted a "sensible" Brexit deal.

"It's not a case of trust. It's a case of elucidating what our position is.

"I firmly believe Theresa May is a unionist and her instincts are very good in relation of the union. All we are saying is she should listen to her instincts and not be pulled away from those instincts.

"We are trying to get the message across, not only to Theresa May, but a lot wider, that what we want is a deal that is sensible, that works for Northern Ireland, the whole of the UK and as I said in Dublin, works for our nearest neighbours.

The Fermanagh MLA was asked if her party would vote for the budget. She said the situation was "very fluid" adding: "We shouldn't jump ahead of ourselves.

"We are waiting to see the text that comes forward."

It's been reported Mrs Foster faced criticism from within her party over the unfolding revelations in the RHI inquiry, how special advisers work and her decision to attend a GAA match on a Sunday.

There has also been rumours of a potential challenge to her leadership emerging.

However, the former first minister scotched those rumours, saying she was "confident" of having the support of her party.

"There is no truth in that," she said.

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