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Arlene Foster's Brexit comments ‘irresponsible', opponents blast

First Minister Arlene Foster speaking with Andrew Marr via video link on his BBC One current affairs programme, The Andrew Marr Show. Picture by Jeff Overs, BBC/Press Association  

FIRST minister Arlene Foster has been branded "irresponsible" after brushing off concerns that a UK exit from the EU would harm the peace process and affect border controls.

The DUP leader said an open border between the north and the Republic would remain following a so-called Brexit.

And she said the peace process would continue unabated as it "is not based on the European Union in any way".

However, her remarks were questioned by SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie who accused the first minister of failing in her duty to represent the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mrs Foster said: "The peace process was built between the communities of Northern Ireland, the relationship between ourselves and our closest neighbour, the Republic of Ireland, and the support of the sovereign government in the United Kingdom. So it's not based in terms on the European Union."

On the issue of the border, Mrs Foster said the current arrangements would remain regardless of the outcomes of the June 23 referendum.

"The common travel area between ourselves and the Republic of Ireland was in existence before we entered the European Union and it will be there when we leave the European Union if that's what the people of the United Kingdom decide to do," she said.

However Ms Ritchie said Mrs Foster's comments were "totally not prudent, irresponsible and foolhardy".

She said the peace process was "clearly modelled on the European Union".

"I think for the first minister and her DUP colleagues to make comments like that, they are no understanding the role of the joint first ministerial office here and the duty to represent the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland," said Ms Ritchie.

"I think it is foolhardy to say there will be no affect on the border when the Cabinet office has produced a document to say that the border is likely to be changed," she added.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson said Mrs Foster showed "complete economic illiteracy".

"People often talk about the British government being a net contributor to the EU, and they are, but the north is a net beneficiary," she said.

"When you think about the Peace one, two, three and four programmes there have been 40,000 projects here in the north that have benefited.

"There's organisations in my own city Derry such as the Nerve Centre that have benifited.

"I sometimes ask is this all about unionists wanting to harden the border because that is what will happen.

"For me as a republican to see an EU border going through the middle of Ireland - that's unacceptable".

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