03 December 2017
Speaking to the DUP’s Lagan Valley Association on Saturday evening DUP leader Arlene Foster MLA said,
Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party and First Minister of Northern Ireland
“Some time ago I set out our Party’s desire to see not a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit but a sensible Brexit. A Brexit that works for Northern Ireland and for the whole of the United Kingdom.
A sensible Brexit means that we want to see the continuation of the Common Travel Area.
A sensible Brexit means that we recognise our responsibility to meet our financial obligations.
A sensible Brexit means that we want to avoid a cliff edge for businesses by having a strictly time limited implementation period.
A sensible Brexit means that we value the contribution that EU migrants make to our economy and society and that we will support a new border policy that is strong but practical.
And a sensible Brexit will involve a comprehensive trade and customs agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
What is not sensible is proposing isolating Northern Ireland from its largest market.
I do not deny that the Republic of Ireland is an important market for many Northern Ireland exporters. But why do some seem so oblivious to the reality that our most important trading partner is Great Britain?
They forget – or do they choose to ignore – the fact that 72% of trade from Belfast Harbour is with Great Britain.
That almost two thirds of local agri-food produce goes to elsewhere in the UK.
And that Northern Ireland manufacturing sales to Great Britain are worth six times more than those to the Irish Republic.
It makes no sense whatsoever to move the border to the Irish Sea and make trade with our biggest market – the rest of the United Kingdom – more difficult.
That’s why I recently wrote to the Heads of Government of each of the 27 EU Member States outlining how the Democratic Unionist Party wants to retain the close trade and other linkages that we have built up with the Republic of Ireland over many years but that we will not countenance anything that compromises our access to the United Kingdom market.
Those who have allowed this to become some sort of zero sum game, framing it as a mutually exclusive choice between maintaining the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK and continued close cross-border relations, do us all a great disservice. It is up to all of us who want to see a sensible Brexit to face up to the challenge and craft a solution that works for Northern Ireland.”