DUP leader Arlene Foster is said to be “annoyed” that Northern Ireland’s business leaders have come out in support of Prime Minister Theresa May’s draft Brexit withdrawal agreement.

The Irish Times has reported that Mrs Foster warned business leaders that they were in danger of being exploited for political reasons.

Four influential lobby groups joined together to hail the withdrawal agreement as a “welcome step forward”.

The Confederation of British Industry NI, Federation of Small Businesses NI, Institute of Directors NI and NI Chamber of Commerce said the deal “provides some much needed clarity that local businesses have been calling for”.

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) claimed a no-deal Brexit would be “absolutely disastrous” for the local farming and agri-food sector.

Mrs Foster is understood to be unhappy about Secretary of State Karen Bradley’s briefing on the Brexit deal to the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Thursday.

She allegedly told chamber members that she was unhappy with business leaders attitude to the proposed deal and said that they did not understand the risk the agreement posted to the union.

However Mrs Foster also said she thought that the deal had no chance of being approved by Westminster.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the DUP’s view of the deal has not changed.

“While we respect their opinion, we disagree with their conclusion that this is the best deal we can get for Northern Ireland,” he said.

“We believe that a border in the Irish Sea is not in the interests of either our farmers or our business owners, because Great Britain is by far our biggest and best market.

“It is our view that anything that creates barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain in economic terms is not good for our economy.”

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said that the proposed agreement “sold out” Northern Ireland.

His party are unhappy that the deal will see Northern Ireland aligned with EU rules and remain part of the single market with checks on some goods coming in from the UK to Northern Ireland, if the Brexit backstop is implemented.

“The choice is now clear, we stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom or we vote for a vassal state,” Mr Dodds told the House of Commons on Thursday.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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