Northern Ireland

Arlene Foster: Brexit 'UK's biggest economic opportunity for decades'

Arlene Foster at the DUP conference
Image caption Arlene Foster was speaking at her first DUP conference as party leader

Brexit presents the biggest economic opportunity for the UK in decades, First Minster Arlene Foster has told the DUP conference.

Mrs Foster also criticised the Irish government for allowing "political instability in Dublin" to drive its decision making "as much as any concern for Northern Ireland".

The first minister was speaking at her first DUP conference as party leader.

She was elected leader last December after Peter Robinson stood down.

Image caption Mrs Foster told the conference that a hard border only exists "in the mind of the Irish government"

Mrs Foster made her criticisms despite relations with the Irish government being "as good as they have been at any point in our history".

"While they seek to take the views of people in Northern Ireland on the issue of Brexit at home, their (the Irish government's) representatives are sent out around the world to talk down our economy and attempt to poach our investors.

"It is clear, conference, that the one place that a hard border does exist is in the mind of the Irish government.

"Well, I don't believe in a hard border and am happy to welcome shoppers looking for a bargain across the border anytime they want to come."

The DUP campaigned for a leave vote in the EU referendum campaign although a majority of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain.

Mrs Foster said that she respected those who wanted to remain, but that she has "no time for those who want to re-fight the referendum".

"That debate is over. Rather than talking up the challenges, we should be looking forward to the opportunities.

"Brexit represents the biggest economic opportunity for this country in decades.

"But, the only way we can ensure that Northern Ireland's interests are best served is if we are united and determined."

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