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DUP conference: Arlene Foster to reaffirm opposition to Brexit deal

Arlene Foster spoke to BBC News NI on the eve of her party conference
Image caption Arlene Foster spoke to BBC News NI on the eve of her party conference

DUP leader Arlene Foster will reaffirm her party’s opposition to Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal when she addresses her annual conference later.

The party has said it will not support the arrangements for Northern Ireland negotiated by the prime minister as it “creates a border in the Irish Sea”.

It has argued the deal would damage the local economy and undermine the union.

The DUP has said it will wait until Monday before giving its response to Mr Johnson’s call for a general election.

The prime minister wants Westminster parties to agree to an election on 12 December.

Mr Johnson announced his preferred date earlier this week after MPs rejected his plan to fast-track the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the Commons within 36 hours.

On the eve of her party conference, Mrs Foster said the DUP will take the weekend to consider the prime minister’s request for an election.

Image caption Arlene Foster said Boris Johnson has not stood by the commitments he made to the DUP last year

She told BBC Radio Ulster’s Inside Politics programme that her party “did not fear an election” but that they still have to consider “if it is the right thing to do”.

The DUP leader added that Mr Johnson appeared at her party’s annual conference in 2018 and made “very clear commitments”, but has not “stood by those commitments”.

Analysis by Jayne McCormack, BBC News NI political reporter

Last year, Boris Johnson was centre stage at the DUP conference and his relationship with the party seemed strong.

One year on, the now-prime minister and the DUP are at odds over the government’s Brexit strategy and there will be no Conservative MPs present at Saturday’s conference.

The party opposes the consent mechanism in the deal that would give Stormont a straight majority vote on continuing EU customs rules.

This is Arlene Foster’s fourth conference as party leader.

Expect Brexit, the ongoing Stormont deadlock and the possibility of a snap general election all to feature on the agenda on Saturday afternoon.

The DUP entered a confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservative Party almost two and half years ago and helped prop up the minority government under Mr Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.

The DUP has met Mr Johnson many times since he became prime minister.

Image caption DUP members cheered Boris Johnson at the Conservative Party conference on 1 October

At the start of this month, DUP members chanted his name when he addressed their fringe event at the Conservative Party’s annual conference in Manchester.

But the relationship soured on 17 October, when Mr Johnson struck a Brexit deal with EU leaders that the DUP said it could not endorse.

All Northern Ireland MPs who take their seats in the Commons – the 10 DUP representatives and independent North Down MP Lady Hermon – opposed the government in votes over the EU withdrawal deal and an accelerated timetable to fast-track the bill through Parliament.


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