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Arlene Foster says Tory-DUP pact is not dead

Arlene Foster said the confidence and supply deal was not dead
Michael McHugh, Press Association

ARLENE Foster has insisted her party's confidence and supply deal with the Tories is not dead.

The DUP leader said the £1 billion deal was "very much still in existence" but that Theresa May needed to "rethink" the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Mrs Foster's party has been seeking to apply pressure to the Tory leader in recent days because the DUP is opposed to the EU-UK plan on the grounds that it may lead to regulatory differences between Northern Ireland and Britain.

Earlier this week, the DUP MPs abstained from votes on government amendments to the Finance Bill, while supporting one tabled by Labour.

Asked at what point she would consider ending DUP's support for the government and if it was "dead" Mrs Foster said: "We're not there yet."

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Speaking about the confidence-and-supply arrangement, she added: "It's not dying but we need to see a rethink in relation to this withdrawal agreement.

"We need to see a better deal for Northern Ireland and a better deal for the United Kingdom."

Earlier, DUP MP Jim Shannon warned the British government that it faces a "rude awakening" over its draft EU withdrawal deal.

Secretary of State Karen Bradley, who appeared before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee yesterday, faced strong opposition from DUP members.

The unionist party is opposed to the draft deal amid fears it could see the north remain within the EU customs union, effectively creating a border in the Irish Sea.

The Strangford MP told Mrs Bradley she needed to seek wider views on the deal.

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"If you don't cast your net wider and seek opinions of other people and stop seeking the... one blinkered opinion, which it is clear to me that some people are pursuing, then you are going to get a very rude awakening," he said.

The withdrawal deal was agreed in principle by Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU last week.

Ms Bradley acknowledged a difference of opinion with Mr Shannon but said government is about taking decisions and providing leadership.

"The safeguards put in place, the reassurances given, the way that the EU dislike the backstop, means as a legal construct, not as a person or country, there is no way that there will be a situation where we can be bound into the backstop indefinitely," she said.

"The right thing to do is to accept the deal and to get the future relationship and make sure we never go into the backstop in any way."

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