DUP leader slams 'unfair' draft Brexit agreement

Arlene Foster met with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels today

DUP leader slams 'unfair' draft Brexit agreement

DUP leader Arlene Foster speaks to the media at the European Parliament in Brussels, 06-03-2018. Image: AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party has claimed the EU's draft Brexit plans are "unacceptable" for Northern Ireland.

Arlene Foster has been meeting with Europe's chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels today.

She used the opportunity to voice her displeasure with any arrangement that could create a customs border between the North and Britain.

She suggested the draft withdrawal agreement published by the EU last Wednesday was not a faithful or fair representation of the agreement reached in last-ditch talks in December.


Describing her talk with Mr Barnier as "good and very open," she insisted the text has "omissions in it" and said it "also overreaches in other areas.”

The DUP leader held a press conference just after 11am:

"I think the important thing from our perspective is that we need to re-visit the text as it currently stands from the EU," she said.

"It is not acceptable and we will be urging our Government to come forward with different text because we feel that the whole of the joint report needs to be reflected in what is going on here in the heart of Europe."


She said the EU text is unacceptable to the DUP, to the British Government and to the British Labour Party.

"So there will be a need to negotiate from that," she said.

"That is his interpretation; we don’t think it’s a fair interpretation of the joint report from December and therefore work needs to be done on this now."


The draft text included three scenarios in the document that could avoid a hard border following Brexit.

The preferred option for both the UK and Irish Governments is for a "comprehensive free trade and customs agreement involving Britain and Ireland."

The second option is for the UK to bring forward unique concrete proposals on how a border can be avoided between two differing regulatory regimes.

The third option is the 'back-stop' that would see the establishment of a "common regulatory area" between the UK and the EU in Northern Ireland.

All three options could be avoided if the UK opted to remain in the single market and the customs union as a whole - something the Conservative Government has categorically rejected.

Concrete proposals

The British Prime Minister Theresa May has claimed the draft text threatens the "constitutional integrity" of the UK and insisted no UK Prime Minister could agree to it.

However, she has yet to bring forward a realistic alternative - even suggesting in the House of Commons that a border system similar to that employed between the US and Canada could be considered.

The Taoiseach has rubbished that suggestion, pointing out that the US/Canada border includes armed patrols.

"I visited it back in August and I saw a hard border with physical infrastructure, with customs posts; people in uniforms with arms and dogs," he said.

"That is definitely not a solution that we could possible entertain."

He has said that it is incumbent on anyone who is unhappy with the draft text to bring forward legally enforceable alternatives.

Following the meeting, Mr Barnier said: “The EU is looking for practical solutions to avoiding a hard border, in full respect of the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, as set out in the Good Friday Agreement.”