‘All-Ireland agricultural zone’ remains on talks table

Boris Johnson with Arlene Foster after a meeting in Stormont earlier this month
Boris Johnson with Arlene Foster after a meeting in Stormont earlier this month
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The prospect of an all-Ireland agricultural zone as a possible Brexit backstop alternative is being actively discussed at Downing Street, Arlene Foster has intimated.

The DUP leader said her party was in the process of “exploring ideas” with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, as well as listening to political leaders in the Republic of Ireland.

Mrs Foster said she was prepared to take the prime minister’s assurance – that the current backstop plan was unacceptable – because she is convinced that “anyone who believes in the United Kingdom” would not vote for the backstop arrangements which would effective separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.

“He has set out very clearly, for the first time actually, why the backstop cannot be the basis for moving forward,” Mrs Foster said.

“We are working with the prime minister trying to find a deal that works for us in Northern Ireland, works for the Republic of Ireland as well, but also means that we leave the European Union all together,” she told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme on Wednesday.

Pressed on whether the idea of an all-Ireland agricultural zone appealed to her, Mrs Foster said: “What we are doing is exploring ideas. We are not going to negotiate on Radio Ulster.

“It is important to listen to voices like Micheal Martin, to people like Bertie Ahern, when they say that what you need to do is get a deal that everyone in Northern Ireland can sign up to – not just one section of the community.”

Mrs Foster added: “At the moment we don’t have that consent from the unionist community.”