Arlene Foster urges British PM to ‘deal with’ Northern Ireland protocol in final meeting


(Press Association) – Arlene Foster has said that it “may well be the case” that Article 16 is invoked over the Northern Ireland protocol ahead of her final meeting with Boris Johnson as First Minister.

Mrs Foster met with the Prime Minister for the last time after announcing her resignation last month.

And she did not back away from suggestions that the clause in the Withdrawal Agreement, which could allow for customs checks at the border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to be suspended, could be put into action.

Customs checks on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland have caused problems for businesses on both sides of the border, ministers have said.

And under the agreement with the EU, one side is able to suspend parts of the border arrangements if they are found to cause significant economic, societal or environmental difficulties.

However this is only supposed to be invoked when all other options have been exhausted and is seen as a nuclear option.

Speaking outside Downing Street in London prior to meeting Mr Johnson, Mrs Foster said the PM needed to “deal with” the Northern Ireland protocol which she fears will “narrow common ground” if not addressed.

Boris Johnson meets Arlene Foster
DUP leader Arlene Foster speaks to the media, ahead of a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, at 10 Downing Street in London, for what is expected to be the last time in her role as Northern Ireland’s First Minister (Jonathan Brady/PA)

She said: “I think the Prime Minister and (Brexit minister) Lord Frost have been listening, they have been putting out some very good statements in relation to dealing with the protocol.

“But now we need to see action, and we need to see action quite soon, because every day the protocol remains the way it is, there’s more damage done to Northern Ireland.”

Asked whether she felt Mr Johnson had betrayed her over the border issues, having previously pledged never to create economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, Mrs Foster said: “Well, look, I got into politics to make Northern Ireland a better place, to move Northern Ireland forward.

“I believe if we are to do that and continue to do that, then I think we need to deal with the protocol in a very proactive way and I hope that when I speak to the Prime Minister this morning we’ll hear more about that.”