Northern Ireland

DUP will support Conservative's Queen's Speech

The DUP leader Arlene Foster

The DUP leader, Arlene Foster, said it is "right and proper" that her MPs support the Conservative government's first Queen's Speech next Wednesday.

Mrs Foster said that she hopes that talks on a Tory-DUP arrangement will conclude as soon as possible.

She said it should be no surprise that the DUP wants a reference to the devolution of Corporation Tax in the deal.

The Stormont Executive has long aspired to reduce its Corporation Tax rate.

Previous Northern Ireland executives have wanted to bring it down to 12.5% to match the corresponding rate in the Irish Republic.

Previously, the Treasury has argued that Stormont would need to pay for such a move by taking a cut to its block grant from London of several hundred million pounds a year.

However, Mrs Foster told the BBC's Inside Politics programme that her party wants to explore whether that remains the case because, in the light of Brexit, they argue that European Union (EU) state aid rules should no longer apply.

The DUP leader believes there is "a very good chance" of devolution being restored at Stormont.

She pointed out that the DUP had just achieved its greatest ever election result and said the party would not countenance anything regarding Sinn Féin deciding who the DUP's nominee for first minister should be.

On abortion, Mrs Foster said there is a broad swathe of consensus that the 1967 Act should not apply to Northern Ireland.

Image caption DUP MP Nigel Dodds (centre) has said that deadlines can be "counter-productive"

However, she said her party would go back and look at an expert report on the issue of fatal foetal abnormality which is understood to recommend legal changes.

The DUP leader noted that her party no longer has the numbers on its own to launch a petition of concern in the Stormont Assembly blocking same-sex marriage.

Asked if it would no longer seek such a veto, Mrs Foster said she would not tie her party down in relation to that matter and discussions about the Petition of Concern system were continuing between the parties.

Questioned about the DUP's relationship with loyalist paramilitaries, Mrs Foster said her party had never sought any endorsement from any group.

She repeated that she would have "no truck" with anyone engaged in paramilitarism or criminality.

Asked about the political rollercoaster which has seen her removed from office as first minister then become the Kingmaker at Westminster, Mrs Foster said she had been kept going by the support of ordinary people.

She said the mark of any politician is how they stay the course when things are tough.

Brexit b

On Brexit, the DUP leader said she believes high tech equipment to monitor goods crossing the Irish border will be ready in time for the UK's departure from the EU. She said developing such a capacity would involve cooperation between the private and public sectors.

Asked what she meant by a "sensible" Brexit, Mrs Foster said her party is talking to Northern Ireland's ports to see how they think trade should be handled.

Noting that 73% of goods coming through Belfast port are going to or coming from Great Britain, Mrs Foster said one thing which would not work would be a border down the middle of the Irish Sea.

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