01 February 2019
DUP Leader Arlene Foster was speaking to members and supporters earlier in Kesh, County Fermanagh. During the course of her remarks Mrs Foster said,
“This week we made good progress in the House of Commons. Since the publication of the draft withdrawal agreement the DUP has been urging the Prime Minister to seek legally binding changes to deal with the toxic backstop.
It was a massive step forward for the Party to see a majority in Parliament also calling for such changes. A clear message was sent to Brussels that the backstop is the problem.
For weeks, Brussels called for a clear ask from the United Kingdom - they now have it.
Whilst a consensus was reached, we must be realistic, the EU are tough negotiators. I don’t expect them to roll over within hours. But they must face up to reality. The blockage to getting a deal is the backstop therefore there must be sensible engagement and a pragmatic approach.
Here in Kesh, we are within walking distance of the border. Local people travel to and fro across the border multiple times every day. It is quite disgraceful for some in Brussels to exploit genuine fears by spinning tales of border posts, troops and queues.
No one is building border checkpoints. No one is sending troops to the border either.
Such talk is foolish and careless.
Last week Michel Barnier acknowledged that there were mechanisms to avoid a so-called hard border, even in a ‘no deal’ scenario. Simon Coveney also helpfully acknowledged this in the Dail on Tuesday when he said,
“if the UK leaves without an agreement in place and the European Union and Ireland are on one side and the UK is on the other, we will all have to work intensively together to ensure that we deliver on our shared goal of avoiding the return of a hard border. We are absolutely committed to doing that, even in those difficult circumstances.”
I welcome the realism both in Brussels and Dublin. Such pragmatic statements ensure genuine fears of local people about the border are laid to rest.
The road ahead will be long and winding but its now time for those who speak a lot about the Belfast Agreement to step up and demonstrate by their actions that the views of unionists are also valued.
A new border east-west is unacceptable to unionists. Let’s focus on getting a sensible deal which works for Brussels, Dublin and London.”