Arlene Foster has indicated that the DUP is willing to support most versions of Brexit – so long as they involve the entire UK leaving as one unit, rather than unique arrangements for Northern Ireland.
In an interview with The Times which was published on Saturday, Mrs Foster was asked what relationship with the EU her party wanted to see.
The DUP leader said: “We have never been prescriptive, it’s up to the prime minister to decide what the future trading relationship should look like. All we have ever said to her is, ‘Please do not cause any divergence between Northern Ireland and GB.’ That’s the most disappointing thing for us and it’s pretty bad.”
In her speech on Saturday, Mrs Foster was sharply critical of Theresa May’s proposed Brexit withdrawal deal.
She said: “The prime minister has not been able to guarantee an outcome that eliminates the risk of the introduction of the so-called backstop arrangements.
“On the one hand, we are told the backstop would be the best of both worlds and on the other we are told it is unlikely to be needed.
“Ladies and gentlemen, therein lies one of the many contradictions at the heart of this draft withdrawal agreement. In such circumstances, Northern Ireland alone would be aligned to numerous EU single market regulations while Great Britain would not.
“Such a scenario in the medium term would inevitably lead to barriers to trade within the UK internal market.
“Let me be very clear, that is not in the national interest.”
However, Mrs Foster softened the DUP criticism of business figures who have backed the deal, saying she understood their position.
However, she said that the choice was not, as they thought, between the current deal or no deal but that a better deal was possible.