Northern Ireland

Brexit: Parties 'were close to agreement', says Foster

Arlene Foster
Image caption Arlene Foster will say she is optimistic the parties can pick up where they left off once the election dust settles

The DUP leader has said Stormont parties were very close to agreeing on the kind of Brexit they wanted, before talks paused last month.

Arlene Foster made her remarks to a Eurosceptic thinktank in London.

Mrs Foster said she was optimistic the parties could pick up where they left off, once the election dust settles.

The former first minister told the Bruges Group she was prepared to be flexible about the terms of any Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.

"We may not have agreed on the 'leave or remain' issue but we were very close to agreeing on the kind of Brexit we wanted to see," the DUP leader said.

"On this basis, I believe that there is room and reason for optimism. And I hope that, once the election dust settles, we can once again pick up where we left off."

Mrs Foster said Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would require "unique and tailored solutions", but she dismissed nationalist arguments for "some ill-defined and ill-conceived so-called special status for Northern Ireland".

She also attacked Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to single out the IRA for condemnation when pressed over his past campaigning activities.

The Labour leader said "all bombing is wrong", as he was repeatedly asked to condemn the IRA alone for its role in the Troubles.

Mrs Foster denounced those comments as "beyond the political pale".

Snap election

The talks aimed at restoring the power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland were put on hold until the general election is over.

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Secretary of State James Brokenshire extended the talks deadline until 29 June.

At the time, he said some progress had been made, but that there were still a number of outstanding issues.

The political deadlock came after a snap Northern Ireland Assembly election on 2 March brought an end to Stormont's unionist majority and the Democratic Unionist Party's lead over Sinn Féin was cut from 10 seats to one.

The late Martin McGuinness quit as deputy first minister in January in protest against the DUP's handling of a botched green energy scheme.

Sinn Féin has said it will not share power with Mrs Foster as first minister until the conclusion of a public inquiry into the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme.

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