Arlene Foster calls for close Irish relations post-Brexit

DUP leader Arlene Foster is speaking in Co Kerry today on a panel that includes Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin

DUP leader Arlene Foster is speaking in Co Kerry today on a panel that includes Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin

The DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she does not want Brexit to "pull up the drawbridge" between the North and the Republic.

Speaking ahead of the conference, the finance secretary said: "We highly value our relationship with Ireland and are committed to deepening our engagement outside the European Union given the close bond, common values, trade and cultural links between the two nations".

Speaking at the Killarney Economic Conference conference, Ms Foster said it was "not in our interests to see the Republic of Ireland do anything other than prosper".

"The Democratic Unionist Party supported the United Kingdom leaving the European Union but in so doing Brexit is not about pulling up the drawbridge, building a wall and cutting ourselves off from our nearest neighbours", she added.

She acknowledged that the "bulk of views expressed about how Brexit will shape the future of politics on this island has been underpinned by a sense of concern" and that she understood those concerns even if she did not share them.

She also said that the Republic was an "incredibly valuable market" for Northern Ireland businesses but that Great Britain remained Northern Ireland's "biggest external market".

"The DUP leader has said she is opposed to a hard border and open to novel solutions".

"But we must all recognise that change is coming as a result of the referendum".

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