Brexit: DUP’s Arlene Foster attacks ‘belligerent’ EU after private dinner with Boris Johnson
Remarks follow united front from EU in opposing attempts by new PM to renegotiate withdrawal agreement
Ms Foster’s comments came the morning after the pair enjoyed a private dinner and appeared to suggest both are determined to pin blame on Brussels should efforts to secure a deal fail in the coming weeks and months.
On Tuesday, Mr Johnson said it was now the EU’s “call” on whether a Brexit agreement was reached or not, as the bloc presented a united front against his attempts to renegotiate Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.
Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, became the latest in a string of EU leaders yesterday to reject Mr Johnson’s desire to “abolish” the contentious backstop – Brussels’ insurance policy to prevent a hard border.
Ahead of talks aimed at restoring the power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland, Ms Foster, whose party props up the Conservatives at Westminster, demanded Brussels “dial back on the rhetoric”.
But in an interview on BBC Breakfast, Ms Foster then claimed a no-deal scenario was on the table because of a “very belligerent EU”.
She said: “Like the prime minister, I want to leave the EU with a deal, but it has to be a deal that respects the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK.
“Unfortunately the previous withdrawal agreement did not do that because of the backstop. The backstop that separated Northern Ireland out from the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Ms Foster continued: “We talked about the fact that Dublin and indeed Brussels needed to dial back on the rhetoric and be a willing partner to find a deal, not just for the UK but for the Republic of Ireland and the whole of Europe.
“No deal is on the table because of the fact we have a very belligerent European Union, who instead of focusing on a deal that was good for all of us, wanted to break up the United Kingdom.”
“Something of course that no British prime minister should be a part of.”
Earlier, the DUP’s chief whip, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said the current chances of a no-deal Brexit were “significant”.
He also attempted to pin blame on the EU, adding: “Well I think given the response of the Irish government in particular who I believe are key to this issue of addressing UK concerns about the backstop, I think the prospect of a no-deal is significant.”
Speaking after a meeting with Mr Johnson at Stormont, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said it was clear the new PM had “set the compass for a disorderly and crash Brexit”, which she said would be “catastrophic” for the Irish economy and the peace accord.
She said Sinn Fein told him that his planning for a no-deal outcome must include the issue of a border poll for Ireland. “Brexit in any event – but certainly a disorderly Brexit – represents in anybody’s language a dramatic change of circumstances on this island,” said Ms McDonald. “It would be unthinkable in those circumstances that people would not be given the opportunity to decide on our future together.”
Pressed on the confidence and supply agreement between the DUP and the Conservatives – first negotiated by Theresa May after the 2017 general election – Ms Foster also said the deal will continue and reviewed in due course.
She declined to be drawn on whether the DUP would be asking for “more money” in future negotiations with the Conservative Party, but added: “We will be focusing on what the needs of the people are.”