Belfast Telegraph

Arlene Foster: The key issues I discussed with Boris on the phone after he became Tory leader

Boris Johnson with DUP’s Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster at the party’s conference last year
Boris Johnson with DUP’s Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster at the party’s conference last year

By Arlene Foster

At just after 3pm yesterday Theresa May left Buckingham Palace having tendered her resignation to Her Majesty the Queen.

No one could ever doubt her dedication to serving the country she loves and her commitment to public service.

As only the second female Prime Minister she has again shown to young women they can aspire to the very highest office in our country.

David Cameron was unwilling to take forward the decision of 17.4million people to leave the European Union while Theresa May found herself unable to secure a deal that Parliament could support and apparently unwilling to use the negotiating leverage that being prepared to leave without a deal would provide.

Boris Johnson will undoubtedly be aware that implementing the referendum result and finally moving the United Kingdom beyond Brexit will be a defining issue, shaping his tenure as Prime Minister.

Following his election as Conservative Party leader on Tuesday, I spoke with him on the telephone and we discussed not just that, but also our shared objective of strengthening the Union.

Key to the rejection of the Withdrawal Agreement in Parliament of course was the inclusion of the backstop and the threat that posed to the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom.

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I am glad that the new Prime Minister will be taking the opportunity to visit Northern Ireland early in his tenure.

The restoration of devolution in Northern Ireland is something I also discussed with Mr Johnson.

I know that he will work to see progress made in Northern Ireland and I would hope that all parties locally will also work positively to see a local Executive in place to take decisions on the issues that matter to the people we represent.

In his speech at Downing Street Mr Johnson promised to be a Prime Minister for the whole of the United Kingdom and the DUP will enter into discussions with the Conservative Party about taking forward the next phase of the confidence and supply agreement.

We entered into that agreement, not to secure sectional interests, but for the good of everyone in Northern Ireland and right across the UK.

While Boris Johnson faces many of the same issues which bedevilled his predecessor's tenure as Prime Minister, what also cannot be ignored is that the approach which Theresa May doggedly attempted to pursue was not and could not be successful.

The Brexit negotiations have dominated our politics for three years.

We need to respect the referendum result. The democratic decision has been made.

It must be implemented so we can move on to address the growing waiting lists and struggling school budgets.

I trust this will be a fresh start for all involved in the negotiations as the UK exits the EU.

Whether in London or Brussels or indeed Dublin, now is the time to work for a sensible deal.

The intransigence of the last three years must be left behind or else we are destined for a WTO exit in October.

Arlene Foster is leader of the Democratic Unionist Party

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