Northern Ireland

DUP's Foster hits out at May's Brexit 'propaganda' tour

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Media captionFoster: This is not the right deal for Northern Ireland

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster has accused Theresa May of "giving up" on getting a better Brexit deal.

The prime minister visited Northern Ireland on Tuesday as part of her two-week push to sell her agreement.

She met the five main political parties at Stormont after a visit to Queen's University in Belfast.

Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Foster accused her of engaging in "propaganda" but the prime minister rejected that claim.

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Media captionThe Brexit deal will allow people in NI to "live their lives as they do today", said Theresa May

Mrs May began the day in Wales before travelling to Belfast, where she met students and business leaders.

During her visit to Queen's University, she issued a thinly-veiled message to the DUP, urging MPs to "think about the national interest" when considering her Brexit deal.

She called on them to "think about the people that they represent" when they vote in the Commons on 11 December on whether to accept or reject the agreement.

'Wasting her time'

She said the deal that was on the table protected Northern Ireland.

The prime minister added that she had heard positive feedback during her visit to Northern Ireland about "the certainty this deal provides".

The terms of the withdrawal agreement were approved by the 27 other EU leaders at a summit on Sunday.

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Image caption The prime minister spoke to students and business leaders at Queen's University in Belfast

Speaking before meeting the prime minister at Stormont, Mrs Foster said the DUP remained opposed to the deal.

But she added that if Mrs May "ditches the backstop there is every reason to think that this agreement could go through".

The DUP leader said the prime minister was "wasting her time" trying to sell the agreement because it would not get the backing of Parliament.

The party has warned that it will review its parliamentary pact with the Conservatives, which props up Mrs May's government, if the deal is approved by MPs.

'Alternative is catastrophic'

Mrs Foster said she knew that "people are fed up" but added that it was not a reason to "accept what's on the table".

She also said it was "offensive" to suggest that there could be last-minute financial inducements from the government that could get the DUP on board.

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Image caption Northern Ireland's four anti-Brexit parties have wanted to meet Theresa May together

Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Alliance Party and the Green Party in Northern Ireland, which are all anti-Brexit, met Mrs May on Tuesday.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said afterwards that the proposed withdrawal agreement was "not perfect but it is the least worst option".

"The alternative is a catastrophic crash out - any suggestion that it can now be renegotiated is fanciful," she added.

She also said that the four parties opposed to Brexit were determined to "prevent a hard border and protect jobs, investment and households from disaster".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood urged the protection of the backstop mechanism at all costs "regardless of what happens" on the day of the Commons vote on the deal.

'Deal is doomed'

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry said that across Northern Ireland "people have made it very clear that they do not want to see a no-deal situation".

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann also met Mrs May and said he told her to ask the EU for more time "to look for alternatives" to her agreement rather than "risk the future of the union for the sake of meeting a deadline".

He called for the Article 50 period, under which the UK's departure date from the European Union has been fixed for 29 March 2019 regardless of whether a deal is agreed, to be extended.

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Media captionFormer Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says negotiators should be sent back to Brussels

Ex-defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon said Mrs May's Brexit deal is "doomed" and must be renegotiated.

US President Donald Trump has suggested the draft agreement could threaten a US-UK trade deal.

Mrs May rejected that, adding that the UK is in talks with the US about their future trading relationship.

Her campaign - which saw her appeal to the public in a "letter to the nation" last weekend - could also include a televised debate with Mr Corbyn, the Daily Telegraph has reported.

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