Just over twelve hours after Arlene Foster released a statement which appeared to suggest the DUP were ready to fudge their red lines on the Irish border, the party leader popped up on BBC Ulster to make clear that this is not the case. In an interview this morning, Foster said ‘there cannot be any barriers between ourselves and the rest of the United Kingdom’:
BBC: Would you entertain checks being applied to goods being imported from Great Britain?
AF: No because there are many instances as to when… if you take someone getting goods in Northern Ireland coming from Great Britain those would be checked as they come into Northern Ireland and then they might be subject to other checks as well. So we cannot have the single market of the United Kingdom interfered with.
The DUP leader later re-iterated her comments in a press conference. This clear rebuke of extra regulatory checks on goods coming from Great Britain to NI means that the optimism felt in government on Monday afternoon will be short-lived. There was thinking that Foster was gifting Theresa May some wriggle room on the issue of agreeing the backstop with Brussels in order to finalise the EU withdrawal agreement – that appears not to be the case.
There has been an argument in recent weeks that the Prime Minister is less reliant on the DUP than she was a year ago so she can get away with making decisions that could leave its MPs unhappy. This is because as the Brexit deal has verged more on the soft side, No 10 can look to Labour votes.