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DUP 'pleased' with Brexit deal but says 'more work needs to be done' on border issue

A deal to avoid a hard border has been reached between the UK and EU.

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster
Image: NurPhoto via PA Images

NORTHERN IRELAND’S DUP party pulled the rug on the first Brexit deal put on the table on Monday, but today the party’s leader has said she is “pleased” with the new deal.

A deal to avoid a hard border was initially expected to be announced on Monday afternoon.

The UK was expected to concede that there will be no “regulatory divergence” on the island of Ireland in relation to the single market and customs union. However, the DUP said it wouldn’t accept Northern Ireland having a different deal to the rest of the UK.

A breakthrough came following a tense week of negotiations as DUP leader Arlene Foster engaged in all-night talks with the UK and EU before British Prime Minister Theresa May headed for Brussels to meet EU chiefs to formally agree on the arrangement.

Foster told Sky News this morning that, following her talks with May, “there is no red line down the Irish Sea and clear confirmation that the entirety of the UK is leaving the European Union, the single market and the customs union”.

However, Foster was also firm in outlining that the DUP believe more work still needs to be done to improve the paper.

She said more focus is needed on the areas of potential future alignment with Ireland and how that could be achieved without staying in the single market and customs union.

“We do however welcome the assurance given by the Prime Minister and Brexit Secretary in Parliament that any alignment will be done on a UK wide basis, ensuring that there would be no barriers to trade between Northern Ireland and our most important market in the rest of the UK,” Foster said in a statement.

https://twitter.com/BBCNews/status/939045797353504769

Foster raised concerns that the paper could have “pre-judged” the outcome of the ongoing debate within the UK in relation to the nature of any regulatory alignment with the EU that may be required post-Brexit.

“We cautioned the Prime Minister about proceeding with this agreement in its present form given the issues which still need to be resolved and the views expressed to be by many of her own party colleagues,” Foster said.

“However, it was ultimately a matter for the Prime Minister to decided how she chose to proceed.

We will play a full part with the government in the second stage of the negotiations on a comprehensive trade deal. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed and how we vote on the final deal will depend on its contents.
Along with like-minded colleagues across the House of Commons, we will ensure that there is no backsliding on the promises made about the integrity of the Union. We will also work to ensure that the United Kingdom as a whole exits the European Union in a way that is of the greatest benefit to our prosperity and freedom.

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, called it a positive day for the Union.

“Fundamentals in all of this… Northern Ireland will not be separated in anyway from the rest of the UK after Brexit. Unfettered across the UK market. No borders in the Irish Sea. Positive day for the Union. Now to the next stage and getting the best UK/EU trade deal,” Dodds said on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/NigelDoddsDUP/status/939053486532161536

It seems that there are contrasting interpretations of today’s deal coming from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In her statement this morning, Foster said that “as a consequence” of the engagement between the government and the DUP, the new text now provides clear commitments to a number of issues.

One of the issues being “there will be no so-called ‘special status’ for Northern Ireland as demanded by Sinn Féin”.

However, in a speech this morning Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said there will be “a special relationship” for Northern Ireland to ensure no barriers to trade in the absence of a trade agreement.

Despite causing a major hiccup to negotiations earlier this week, Foster said today that the DUP’s “guiding principle” throughout the crunch talks has been to “act in the national interest to ensure the constitutional and economic integrity of the United Kingdom is not compromised as we leave the European Union”.

“The Democratic Unionist Party has always been clear that the Union that matters most to Northern Ireland is that of the Union of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

Read: Liveblog: Varadkar hails ‘cast iron’ deal as agreement made for no hard border after Brexit

More: This is what the Brexit deal means for Ireland and Northern Ireland

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