Arlene Foster set for last meeting with PM as Northern Ireland’s First Minister

Arlene Foster is set to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the last time as Northern Ireland’s First Minister later.

The outgoing DUP leader announced her resignation last month following an internal revolt within her party.

Edwin Poots was narrowly elected to be her successor over Sir Jeffrey Donaldson last week.

DUP leadership
Democratic Unionist Party new elected leader Edwin Poots leaving Stormont (Brian Lawless/PA)

Mr Poots is expected to appoint a colleague to serve as First Minister to allow him to focus on leading the party.

Mr Johnson was warmly embraced by Mrs Foster and the DUP following his election as the leader of the Conservative Party in 2019.

He received a hero’s welcome at a DUP party conference the previous year where he emphasised his belief in the union and pledged never to create economic barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

However he is now regarded as having betrayed Mrs Foster and her party through the post-Brexit arrangements his government agreed with the EU.

Brexit
Graffiti on a wall along the Belmont Road in east Belfast (Rebecca Black/PA)

The Northern Ireland Protocol is fiercely opposed by unionists and loyalists over its requirement for additional checks on goods arriving into the region from Great Britain regarded as a border down the Irish Sea,

At today’s meeting at Downing Street, the protocol is likely to feature in discussions, however the tone may be more of a wind down as Mrs Foster prepares to step away from local politics.

The meeting comes amid speculation as to whether she will remain in post as First Minister to the end of June as planned, or if Mr Poots will push to install a replacement sooner.

DUP leadership
Boris Johnson meeting with DUP leader Arlene Foster at Stormont (Niall Carson/PA)

Discontent at the DUP’s Brexit strategy was a major factor in the move against Mrs Foster, with party rank-and-file laying some of the blame for the emergence of an Irish Sea border at her door.

Traditionalists from the party’s religious fundamentalist wing also harboured concerns over positions Mrs Foster has taken on some social issues.

Mr Poots has vowed to get rid of the protocol.