DUP rule out Brexit customs barrier for Northern Ireland

DUP rule out Brexit customs barrier for Northern Ireland

Ireland wants guarantees from the United Kingdom that a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will be avoided.

Arlene Foster was speaking to the BBC's Today programme ahead of the DUP's annual conference on Saturday.

Foster's 10 MPs keep May and the minority Conservative government in office.

Britain is due to leave the European Union in March 2019 but officials said that progress had to be made on deciding the future status of the border between the Republic of Ireland and its northern neighbour, which is part of the United Kingdom, before talks could start on a comprehensive trade deal.

But the DUP is adamant Northern Ireland be treated the same as England, Scotland and Wales.

"However, we will not support any arrangements that create barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom or any suggestion that Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, will have to mirror European regulations".

Theresa May's decision to hold an election in June 2017, and then lose her majority and strike a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, at a time when the future of Ireland is of central importance to Brexit, has left the DUP with more influence over affairs both at home and in Westminster than ever before. Fine Gael say she adhered to due process.

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Foster said she believed devolution was still the best way to govern the region but her deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, warned that the moment was fast approaching when a return to direct rule from London "will be the lesser of two evils".

Mrs Foster also accused the Irish government of cherry-picking the Good Friday Agreement in its own interest.

On the £1bn-plus aid package the DUP extracted from May as a price for propping up the Tories, Foster said: "Do you remember how some said that the DUP would pursue a narrow agenda in our negotiations?"

Northern Ireland has been without a properly functioning powersharing administration since January.

"This is. unsafe politically at a time when the country does not need an election", Foreign Minister Simon Coveney of Fine Gael told national Irish broadcaster RTE, in an apparent reference to the Brexit talks he had earlier described as a "historic moment" for the island of Ireland.

Theresa May said that "We would honour our commitments and that's what we have been talking about" The ten days set out by Tusk will end on 4 December when May meets with the president of the Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.

Elected representatives from district councillors right up to DUP figures at Westminster declined to speak without permission from the party's press office about their views on Brexit, the border or other controversies.