Arlene Foster makes clear she will implement the PM’s Brexit ‘betrayal act’ and Irish Sea border she denounced
Arlene Foster has made clear that she will implement the Brexit deal which she railed against and has suggested that more money from London and assistance for various businesses could help offset the damage to the Union.
In highly significant comments to Sky News, the First Minister effectively signalled that her party’s fight against constitutional changes which she once said go to “the heart of the Act of Union” is now over.
Some other senior DUP figures want to see the party take an obstructionist stance, believing they can still thwart at least aspects of what is coming.
In the wake of Mr Johnson’s betrayal of the DUP who had been critical to him becoming Prime Minister, Mrs Foster said that his acceptance of a trade border in the Irish Sea would be “bad for Northern Ireland economically and will weaken the foundations of this great United Kingdom” while deputy leader Nigel Dodds described it as the “worst of both worlds”.
In an interview with Sky News, the DUP leader restated her opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol which will see that new internal UK trade border erected.
However, setting out a pragmatic acceptance that she had lost that fight, she went on: “But Boris Johnson is Prime Minister, he took it to the Commons, he gained the support he needed, and therefore it became law.
“I mean, there are some who would continue to fight against the protocol, I have to recognise that that is the reality now.”
She went on: “And what I have to do as a leader of unionism in Northern Ireland is to make sure that I mitigate against the damage to the union. And actually, instead of worrying about the damage, actually take steps to actually strengthen the Union.
“So if you look at the shared prosperity fund that has been posed by the government, how are, there are ways that we can integrate Northern Ireland into other parts of the United Kingdom in innovation in cybersecurity and all of the new economies that we’re talking about.
“So instead of saying, I wish that hadn’t happened – and I do – how to mitigate against that, and also take steps to make sure that we have a shared prosperity in the future for the whole of the UK”.
When it was put to Mrs Foster that the bottom line was that she was going to have to be part of a process that implements the deal she doesn’t like and which loyalists branded “the betrayal act”, the First Minister said: “Yes, we do.”
Ulster Unionist leader Steve Aiken said the deal was “potentially disastrous economically and constitutionally for Northern Ireland”.
He told the News Letter that “at best, I find the First Minister’s comments curious” because her Agriculture Minister, Edwin Poots, is already facilitating inspection posts for the new Irish Sea border.
When asked if the Brexit deal should be accepted and implemented, or resisted, Mr Aiken said: “The current deal shouldn’t be meekly accepted and implemented. It`s a self-inflicted wound.
“Instead, all who value the economic, social and cultural aspects of the Union should use whatever legal and political means possible to oppose it.
“If the Ulster Unionist Party had delivered a deal like this, the DUP would have eviscerated us. The next few months will be critical for the future of our Union and taking a supine approach to legislation and regulation will allow the worst excesses of the NI Protocol to be imposed on Northern Ireland, its people and economy.”
Allister outlines alternative involving ‘societal difficulties’
Jim Allister has urged Arlene Foster to continue to fight the imposition of an Irish Sea trade border.
He said it was “sad” that the DUP leadership had come to terms with a London-Brussels deal “destructive of Northern Ireland’s position both constitutionally and economically”.
The TUV leader said “It didn’t have to be like this.
“The only prescribed circumstances in which the Protocol can be revisited is where it’s implementation is causing ‘serious societal difficulties’ – Article 16 (1).
“The DUP had it in its power to create that very situation, if the Irish Sea border is as anathema as we all said.
“A key component of the governmental arrangements at Stormont is the operation of north/southery. Refuse to operate those structures and Stormont is brought at least to the brin, with the resulting impasse the very stuff of serious societal difficulties. Also, by refusing to establish the port infrastructure then an impasse results.”
He added: “But unionism is being led like a lamb to the slaughter”.
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