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'UK must leave as one nation': Foster refutes reports the DUP would accept Irish Sea checks

The London Times reports that the DUP is prepared to accept the North abiding by some EU rules post-Brexit.

DUP leader Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster
Image: PA Archive/PA Images

DUP LEADER ARLENE Foster has refuted reports in the London Times that the party is prepared to shift its red lines to abide by some European rules after Brexit. 

The newspaper reports that it understands the party has agreed it would accept Northern Ireland abiding by some European Union rules post-Brexit in a deal to replace the Irish backstop. 

It reports that the DUP also said privately that it would ditch its objection to regulatory checks in the Irish Sea. 

However, Foster tweeted that the “UK must leave as one nation” and that “anonymous sources lead to nonsense stories”. 

“We are keen to see a sensible deal but not one that divides the internal market of the UK,” Foster said. 

“We will not support any arrangements that create a barrier to East West trade.”

When questioned about the story on BBC NI’s The View, South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford said he didn’t “recognise that as our party position”. 

“I was at an event this evening [Thursday] before I came here, where three members of parliament were speaking and that is not the position of the party,” he said.

In recent weeks, a backstop, solely for Northern Ireland, has been mooted as one option that could break the impasse between the UK and the EU over the issue of the border. 

The idea was raised in negotiations between the UK and the EU as a way to avoid a hard border. However, in February 2018 Theresa May ruled out the idea. 

However, Foster on Tuesday said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had ruled out the idea of a Northern Ireland-only backstop. 

“History teaches us that any deal relating to Northern Ireland which cannot command cross community support is doomed to failure. That is why the Northern Ireland backstop is flawed,” Foster said in a statement after a meeting with Johnson.

On Wednesday, Johnson said: “I’ve seen a bit of chatter about this, stuff in the media about this – we will not accept a Northern Ireland-only backstop. That simply does not work for the UK.”

‘Terrible example’  

Meanwhile, the Commons Speaker John Bercow has promised “creativity” in UK Parliament if Johnson does not abide by the law designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit. 

In a speech, Bercow said he believes the only possible Brexit is one the House of Commons has “explicitly endorsed”. 

A new law has passed that would force the government to seek a three-month extension on the Brexit deadline if there is no-deal with the EU by 19 October. 

Last week, Johnson said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than seek another Brexit extension”. 

Speaking yesterday, however, Bercow said not obeying the law would be a “terrible example to set for the rest of society”, according to the BBC

The only form of Brexit which we will have, whenever that might be, will be a Brexit that the House of Commons has explicitly endorsed.

Bercow went on to say it is “astonishing” that “anyone has even entertained the notion”.

He said that if the government comes close to disobeying the new law, Parliament “would want to cut off such a possibility and do so forcefully”. 

“If that demands additional procedural creativity in order to come to pass, it is a racing certainty that this will happen, and that neither the limitations of the existing rule book nor the ticking of the clock will stop it doing so,” he added.

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