Arlene defends Brexit, trusts Theresa and appears to see no need for solidarity with the Republic.

First Minister Arlene Foster has burst into print in the Guardian to explain how Leave is compatible with Northern Ireland’s interests. If nothing else, it marks her out as the first person of any prominence to do so. If Martin McGuinness and Colum Eastwood are alarmist, she is almost complacent and takes a lot for granted. Yet read carefully  she is still asking for special treatment for Northern Ireland and assumes she’ll get it.  Her message is “stick with Theresa and she’ll see us right. We don’t  need that pesky republic.”   Let’s hope it works.

Forget the scare stories about a partial UK Brexit and a threat to the peace process in Northern Ireland. We Democratic Unionists see real benefits.

(What are they Arlene?)

 I emphasised the need for the Northern Ireland executive to be fully represented in the negotiating process. That must mean nothing less than high-level and ongoing involvement in the process.

Our key priorities include cross-border movement of people, goods and services; trading costs and business competitiveness; uncertainty on drawdown of EU funding; and support for our agri-food sector.

Clearly, just as the EU already does with its multiple land borders, I would expect Brussels to be sensible in its treatment of the Irish Republic border with the UK when we leave. Belfast, London and Dublin are all united in the view that the border must not become an impediment for us in terms of movement of people or goods. The UK government is also fully aware that there can be no question of hurdles being placed

TNo one can plausibly deny that for each part of the UK, the most important trade (never mind social and cultural) relationships are those we have with the rest of the country. This is as true of us in Northern Ireland as it is in Scotland.

The only solidarity she expresses with the Republic are vague references to “any deal should recognise the reality of Northern Ireland’s geography and of our history,” and the troika’s handling of the financial bailout. Serves you right for joining the euro, guys!.

No one in Northern Ireland can look at the Irish Republic and feel anything other than sympathy for what the EU has recently put it through.

No mention here of what the UK is putting the “Irish Republic” through.  The First Minster’s attitude augurs badly for a united Executive approach to closer engagement with the Republic on the many matters of unique common interest. She casts it as  an EU member state which happens to share a ” frontier ” ( a great border unionist word during the  Troubles)  with us in the UK.

Or perhaps  this is  just her rather dour style.


Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London