Any Brexit deal that traps Northern Ireland in EU structures will not get DUP support, Arlene Foster has warned.
The DUP leader said her party would only back a withdrawal agreement that is in Northern Ireland’s “long-term economic and constitutional interests”.
Ms Foster acknowledged there had been a lot of speculation as to what had happened during the Prime Minister’s meeting with Irish premier Leo Varadkar in England.
The positive read out from Thursday’s encounter, followed by the intensification of UK and EU negotiations, has prompted suggestions both sides could be poised to make compromises on customs arrangements, to avoid border checks on the island of Ireland.
Responding to the developments, Ms Foster said Boris Johnson was aware of the DUP view that the UK had to leave the EU as one nation.
She made clear her party would exercise its “considerable influence” in Parliament to stand up for the region.
“We are regularly in touch with the Prime Minister and as a result he is aware of our views,” she said.
“The United Kingdom EU referendum result delivered the people’s verdict and it must be delivered. To do otherwise would be anti-democratic.
“We have been consistent in our opposition to the backstop, whether UK or NI only, and anything that traps Northern Ireland in the European Union, whether Single Market or Customs Union, as the rest of the United Kingdom leaves will not have our support. The Prime Minister is very mindful of that.
“We have argued that it is important to secure a balanced and sensible deal as we leave the European Union. Those who know anything about Northern Ireland will appreciate that these issues will only work with the support of the unionist as well as the nationalist community.”
Ms Foster said no barriers to trade could be erected within the UK.
She stressed the importance of Northern Ireland politicians giving democratic consent to any arrangement that might align the region with specific sectors of the single market.
“We have held steadfast to that position whilst recognising the need to be flexible and look at Northern Ireland specific solutions achieved with the support and consent of the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland,” Ms Foster added.
“In order to secure a sensible deal for everyone it is important that the European Union understand that to maximise the prospects of agreement there will need to be a clear acceptance that the economic and constitutional integrity of the whole of the United Kingdom will have to be respected as we leave.
“As a consequence of the mandate given to us by voters in 2017 the DUP is very relevant in the parliamentary arithmetic and regardless of the ups and downs of the Brexit discussions that has not changed.
“We will judge any outcome reached by the Prime Minister against the criteria above.”