Foster: EU withdrawal text not in NI’s long-term interests

Call for support UK Prime Minister Theresa May at Queen’s University Belfast yesterday

DUP leader Arlene Foster hinted she could back a "plan B" Brexit that ministers are said to be considering if Theresa May's deal is destroyed in the Commons.

Tuesday's tour includes meetings with political leaders from all parties in Northern Ireland - which will have Britain's only land border with the European Union and whose future has been a stumbling block in the negotiations.

I think it is and the reason I say that is on day one of us leaving the European Union there would be no difference, we would be exactly the same as the rest of the United Kingdom but in year five or ten we would be different.

May will highlight the business case for backing her deal, saying that it has support from manufacturers who "need to be able to trade freely across the border with Ireland and have unfettered access to the rest of the United Kingdom's market".

Mrs Foster voiced her frustration last week that her party had not been allowed to see the draft of the deal before it was debated by Cabinet.

Its leader Arlene Foster has already said that if Mrs May wants the DUP's continued support, it means removing the Irish backstop from the withdrawal agreement.

Asked if May's deal was a greater threat than a Labour government, Foster said: "I think it is, and the reason I say that is on day one of us leaving the European Union there would be no difference, we would be exactly the same as the rest of the United Kingdom but in year five or 10 we would be different".

The DUP said it wanted to avoid a no deal Brexit but warned Mrs May she would lose the party's support if she did not rethink.

"Trying to get a deal we can all sign up to instead of wasting time going around the country for two weeks".

During her address she underlined the benefits of the DUP/Tory pact which came with an extra £1 billion funding to Northern Ireland - saying it had helped people across the community.

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Underlining this, Foster has also threatened not to support May in a confidence vote should parliament vote down the deal.

The prime minister will also meet with the five main political parties, to urge them to get behind the deal - which has received support from major employers and trade associations concerned about the implications of crashing out of the European Union without any deal.

"The DUP is leading the way and the Conservative Party need us - if they don't know this by now they are living in cloud cuckoo land", said Alan Ewart, 68, a member of the party since its inception in 1971 and now its finance director.

The party's Westminster leader insisted the union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is "non-negotiable". "There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the duplicity of the prime minister". "We're talking to people in the remain side, we're talking to Brexiteers, we're talking to everyone, as I think you would expect us to do".

"But it is not this deal".

The Prime Minister was also presented with some poultry.

"So Prime Minister, the message from this conference, from every section of this party, is - bin the backstop".

The apology during her conference speech on Saturday came nearly exactly two years after the former first minister told The Irish News that she could not be expected to "be across every jot and tittle" of the lavish green energy scheme she oversaw while Stormont's minister for enterprise.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo criticised Spain's stance.

The issue had become a late stumbling block in the Brexit talks.

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