The leader of the DUP is holding “wide-ranging” meetings with EU officials in Brussels over the next few days in a bid to break the Brexit deadlock ahead of a looming no-deal deadline. Arlene Foster flew in from Belfast in the early hours of Tuesday morning and met with chief negotiator Michel Barnier and other officials, as well as representatives from member states.
The right-wing party, which is propping up Theresa May’s minority government in Parliament, is seen as key to a deal on the Northern Ireland border – and has therefore been granted huge access in the EU capital.
Critics of the government said Ms Foster had effectively “taken over” Brexit negotiations from Theresa May – as she prepared to meet representatives of member states, negotiators, officials, and top EU parliament figures.
“We have a very wide range of meetings within the Commission, we’ve just come from a meeting with Mr Barnier,” Diane Dodds, the DUP’s MEP who is accompanying Ms Foster on the trip, told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.
Speaking at the same press conference Ms Foster accused the EU of not understanding British unionism with its plans to solve the Northern Irish border.
“It is vital that the EU from their perspective understands the sensitivities around Northern Ireland and that we’re going to be the only part of the United Kingdom with a land border with the EU after we leave next year,” she said.
The party leader added that she would not accept any checks between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, rejecting the EU’s bid to “de-dramatise” them.
She has in recent days appeared to shoot down a nascent bid by the British government to compromise on checks across the Irish sea, describing her red-lines as “blood red”. An EU bid to compromise by having checks done in advance appeared not to impress the Ms Foster either. Read more
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