British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Wednesday meet leaders in Northern Ireland, the key battleground in Britain’s fight to leave the European Union and the focus of increasingly tense rhetoric on both sides of the Irish Sea. He arrived in Belfast on Tuesday night amid warnings from Irish leaders that his vow to leave the EU, with or without a deal, risks breaking up the United Kingdom. Johnson will hold talks with Northern Ireland’s main political parties to discuss the restoration of the British province’s power-sharing government, which collapsed in January 2017. But Brexit will be the issue hanging over the visit. Ireland has a land border with the province that both sides want to keep free-flowing after Brexit, both for economic reasons and, more importantly, to maintain the delicate peace deal that brought an end to decades of violence between Irish nationalists and British loyalists. The removal of checks on the border with Ireland was considered a key factor in reducing tensions. But after Brexit, that border will become part of the EU’s external frontier and would legally require policing. The agreement struck by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May proposed the so-called “backstop” solution, a mechanism designed to preserve the EU’s single market and prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland. But many eurosceptic MPs believe it gives the EU too much control over Britain and rejected the deal three times. Johnson told Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, on Tuesday that the “backstop” plan was unacceptable, putting
When Britain voted to leave the European Union, few voters outside Northern Ireland thought about what it would mean for the British province. Three years on, Northern Ireland is inching closer to holding a referendum of its own — on reunification with Ireland. A united Ireland, and Northern Ireland’s withdrawal from the United Kingdom, remain distant prospects, and a unity referendum may not happen soon. But, as an unexpected consequence of Brexit, the political landscape is shifting. The two largest parties in the Irish republic, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, both of whom ultimately favour a united Ireland, have expanded their political networks north of the border to position themselves for a possible “unity vote”. Fine Gael, Ireland’s governing party, has also taken the unusual step of selecting one-time Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan as a candidate to run in the Dublin constituency in this week’s European elections. “The unity debate has gained legs in the context of Brexit,” Durkan, a former leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), one of Northern Ireland’s two main pro-unity parties, told Reuters while campaigning in the Irish capital. In the 2016 Brexit referendum, nearly 56% of voters in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the EU but the province will leave when the rest as Britain departs — on a date that has not yet been set. Ireland, which won independence from Britain a century ago and joined the EU in 1973, will remain in the bloc as its
Brexit deal marks a clear victory for Ireland -- one no-one in Britain saw coming and one which has raised the Irish government's standing at home and abroad. "The Irish government's key preferences were all reflected in the divorce settlement," said Etain Tannam, a senior lecturer at Trinity College Dublin.
Arlene Foster, was born Arlene Kelly on 3 July 1970. Foster has plenty of experience of unlikely political marriages, having spent years in coalition government with unionism’s long term political opponents, Sinn Féin.
Arlene has been involved in politics since she was a student at Queen’s University and has always been known as a strong advocate for unionism, particularly in the west of the Province. A lawyer by profession, she was born and bred in South East Fermanagh and still lives in the County with her husband and three children.