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Brexit: Hard Border

Oral Answers to Questions — The Executive Office – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 3rd October 2016.

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Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy Deputy Speaker 2:30 pm, 3rd October 2016

T2. Mr Kennedy asked the First Minister and deputy First Minister whether the First Minister can outline the view that she has expressed to the Prime Minister and the Minister with responsibility for Brexit on the issue of what has been described as a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic once the UK leaves the EU. (AQT 257/16-21)

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

There are times when I wished, over this past 40 years, that we had a hard border between us and the Republic of Ireland: times when people were being murdered at will along the border, but there was no hard border. I find it very difficult to understand why those who voted "Remain" still do not get that we, as a United Kingdom, voted to leave the European Union. Some are calling them "Remoaners" — of course, I would not use that sort of terminology — and they cannot get that the only people who are talking about a hard border are people who voted to remain. Nobody on this side of the House is talking about a hard border — nobody. I do not know whether some people have become fascinated with Donald Trump's wall, but we do not want a wall built. Some people might, but I do not want a wall built along the border with the Republic of Ireland. We want maximum movement between us and the Republic of Ireland. We want a sensible way forward. I am working for a sensible way forward, but there are plenty in the Assembly who keep talking up issues that are not even on the agenda.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy Deputy Speaker

I am slightly disappointed at the tone the First Minister seems to be adopting. When she is swilling champagne at the Conservative Party conference later this week —

[Laughter.]

— will she at least try to ensure that any future arrangements for border controls are not simply created at Great Britain's ports and airports?

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

It took only until 2.35 pm to get that one in. I assure the Member that non-alcoholic drinks will also be available at the reception —

[Laughter.]

— in case he wants to come along.

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

He was not invited.

Photo of Arlene Foster Arlene Foster DUP

That is true, and that is part of the problem: we are listening to jilted lovers and their reaction to the way in which they deal with the Conservative Party now. We all remember the Ulster Conservatives and Unionists - New Force (UCUNF) — sorry, those who were in the Ulster Unionist Party at the time remember UCUNF. There are many on the UUP Benches, of course, who were not in the party then.

Of course, I will be representing the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland when I go to Birmingham. I will be give a very good account of what is happening in Northern Ireland, including the fact that we are an open, regional economy and want to remain an open, regional economy in the United Kingdom to take all the benefits of our membership of the United Kingdom while benefiting from our good relationship with the Republic of Ireland's Government, which will continue post-Brexit.