Arlene Foster urged to get down from ‘Brexiteer high horse’

By David Young, Press Association

DUP leader Arlene Foster should get down from her hard “Brexiteer high horse” and rethink her decision to oppose the proposed Brexit deal, Sinn Fein’s president has said.

Mary Lou McDonald insisted it was time for “grown-up politics” and to act to protect the island of Ireland’s economy from a no-deal Brexit.

In a scathing assessment of the DUP position, Ms McDonald said “internal wrangles” within the party should not be allowed to drive Ireland “over the cliff”.

Sinn Fein has backed Prime Minister Theresa May’s suggested deal with the EU, claiming it is “not perfect” but it does provide a way of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The DUP is vociferously opposed to Ms May’s agreement, claiming it will undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom with its border “backstop” proposal to allow Northern Ireland to operate under a different regulatory regime to the rest of the UK.

Noting that business and agricultural bodies in Northern Ireland have backed the deal, Ms McDonald urged the DUP to “listen to wider society”.

“The DUP have got it catastrophically wrong,” she said on a visit to Belfast.

“They’re wrong about the draft agreement. It’s not perfect but it is certainly a baseline to protect our economic interests and agreements.

“It’s now very clear right across Ireland, north and south, that key voices from business, agriculture and other sectors are coming out and facing down what was a very negative politics advanced by the DUP and the hardline Tory Brexiteers.

“Now is the time to ensure that the bottom lines around no hard border, the protection of the Good Friday Agreement and citizens’ rights are met.

“This is vital to protect everybody who lives and works on the island of Ireland.”

Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)

Asked what her message to Ms Foster was, the Sinn Fein president said: “Anyone who wishes to protect Ireland north and south needs to get off their Brexiteer high horse, needs to face reality in the face and needs to understand that the agreement now as brokered is what Brexit looks like.

“If was Arlene Foster I would wake up and smell the coffee and reassess my position, and I would insist that the internal party wrangles within the Tory party and indeed within the DUP cannot be allowed to drive any part of Ireland over the cliff.

“Brexit isn’t a passing phenomenon – this is for keeps and we are still in very, very dangerous and very choppy waters.

“And all of us, irrespective of our party political persuasion, have to behave like adults. This is grown-up politics and this is about protecting people’s livelihoods – it’s about protecting the entire island of Ireland.”

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds has insisted unionism is united in opposition to the draft deal.

“This deal would place a trade border in the Irish Sea, subject us to EU rules without any power to influence or change them, and binds us to the EU with no unilateral ability to leave,” he said on Sunday.

“Indeed, Northern Ireland is part of the EU customs union, not the UK’s.”

He added: “I understand why some people fear a no-deal scenario. But the choice is between this very bad deal and the right deal.

“With MPs on all sides of the House pointing to the dangers for the Union of the withdrawal agreement, it is clear that it is time to work for a better deal which does not undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom.”