Northern Ireland news

DUP 'blood red lines' do not represent the north

A DUP delegation meets Michel Barnier in Brussels

STORMONT'S pro-Remain parties last night stressed how the DUP does not represent the majority view in Northern Ireland as Arlene Foster reiterated her opposition any new economic barriers between the region and Britain.

The DUP leader yesterday headed a party delegation at a meeting with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.

Speaking afterwards, she said any Brexit deal must meet her party's red line of no border in the Irish Sea.

Mrs Foster said her party needed to see the legal text of any agreement between the EU and UK to ensure it did not lead to new checks on goods moving between the north and Britain.

"We cannot talk in a vacuum," she said.

"We need to see what has been proposed and we will check that against what we have called our red line."

Her remarks came amid an increased expectation that the British government will set out further proposals for avoiding a hard border, in what is being dubbed the 'hybrid backstop'.

The former first minister said the meeting with Mr Barnier was "useful".

"It is vital that the European Union understands the sensitivities surrounding Northern Ireland and that fact that we are going to be the only integral part of the United Kingdom with a land border with the European Union after we leave next year," she said afterwards.

Mrs Foster was accompanied at the meeting by DUP MEP Diane Dodds, who said trade barriers between the north and Britain would be "disastrous".

Mrs Dodds said that the current checks on livestock should continue but she said the EU backstop would mean "checks on for instance lasagne".

The remark drew ridicule from Sinn Féin's Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who speaking from New York, said the DUP was ignoring the "catastrophic impact on our economy".

"If that is the best argument the DUP can come up with for undermining our economy, our peace process and imposing a new border on the island of Ireland, then they really are out of step with the vast majority of people on this island and across Europe," the South Belfast MLA said.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann also met Mr Barnier.

The North Antrim MLA said he sensed the two sides were moving towards a deal.

But he voiced his party's opposition to the EU backstop, saying he was concerned by "its implications for our place within the United Kingdom".

"The efforts to de-dramatise do not go to the heart of unionist concerns and we underlined to Michel Barnier why the outworkings of the backstop are so problematic for us," he said.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill said the DUP did not represent the majority view on Brexit.

She said Mrs Foster's talk of "blood red lines" was out of step with many unionists, who the Mid Ulster MLA claimed were "growing increasingly concerned at the DUP's willingness to endanger our economy in order to avoid an imaginary line on the Irish Sea".

Ms O'Neill referenced last week's joint meeting where along with the leaders of the SDLP, Alliance and Greens, she met with Mr Barnier.

"We did so as the majority voice of the people here," she said.

"All those parties made it clear that, in terms of Brexit, the DUP should not have a veto."

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said the DUP was failing to "acknowledge the reality of Brexit".

"The DUP need to review their contradictory red lines and accept either full alignment with the single market and customs union, or some regulatory checks," she said.

Alliance's Stephen Farry also stressed that the DUP do not represent the north's economic and political interests.

"Their current stance is taking us over the cliff to a no-deal Brexit," he said.

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