Theresa May’s Brexit deal a greater threat than Jeremy Corbyn, says DUP leader Arlene Foster
Theresa May’s Brexit deal poses a greater threat to the United Kingdom than a government led by Jeremy Corbyn, DUP leader Arlene Foster has said.
The unionist leader - whose 10 MPs prop up the Conservatives - said she was more concerned about the Brexit agreement than the election of Mr Corbyn, who has previously expressed support for a united Ireland.
Asked by The Times if Mrs May's deal was a greater threat than a Labour government, Ms Foster said: "I think it is, and the reason I say that is on day one of us leaving the European Union there would be no difference, we would be exactly the same as the rest of the UK but in year five or ten we would be different."
The DUP leader pointed out that some Labour MPs have different views to the party leadership on Northern Ireland, and vowed to look at the "whole picture" if confronted with the choice of backing a fresh general election or accepting the Government's Brexit plan.
"The Brexit deal is a real threat as opposed to something that may happen," she said.
The DUP has found common cause with Conservative Brexiteers over the 'backstop' element of the Prime Minister's Brexit plan.
That proposal seeks to avoid fresh checks at the Irish border by allowing Northern Ireland to stay aligned to some parts of the EU’s single market while the whole of the UK stays in a customs arrangement with the bloc.
It would only kick in if no alternatives can be thought up before December 2020.
But Brexiteers fear it could leave the UK bound to EU rules indefinitely with no say in how they are drawn up, while the DUP is concerned it will create fresh differences between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Ms Foster said: "If people [in Northern Ireland] are looking to Dublin for representation in Europe because we’re the subject of EU rules, that is so dangerous in terms of the Union.
"All the things we build the Union on — the economic unit, the cultural, social, political and historical - start to diverge."
Chancellor Philip Hammond is one of two Tory MPs attending the DUP gathering in Belfast this weekend, on a week the confidence and supply deal it agreed with the Tories came under increasing strain.
He told members the government had a number of choices through the "parliamentary process".
And he hinted at his backing for extending the Brexit transition period to avoid having to use the controversial backstop, which will kick in to avoid fresh checks at the Northern Ireland border if the UK and EU cannot strike a comprehensive trade deal.
"I would much prefer to see us extending the implementation period and I am sure my DUP colleagues would take the same view," he said.
“So we need to look at how we can provide reassurance about how we will use the options that the agreement gives us.”
Top Brexiteer Boris Johnson is meanwhile set to address the DUP faithful in a speech on Saturday afternoon.