The Prime Minister’s bid to extend the Brexit process is unsurprising but unsatisfactory, Arlene Foster said.
The Democratic Unionist leader blamed the “chaotic” EU exit on intransigence from Brussels and ineffectiveness in London.
She said: “The United Kingdom fighting European elections almost three years after a clear majority voted to leave the EU sums up the disorganised and slapdash approach taken to negotiations by the Prime Minister.”
The DUP’s 10 MPs had been supporting the minority Government in key decisions but have voted against Theresa May’s proposed deal.
They adamantly oppose the backstop insurance policy which they believe would redraw the border with the EU down the Irish Sea and threaten the integrity of the UK and Northern Ireland’s place in it.
Mrs Foster added: “The Prime Minister’s latest plea to Brussels for an extension to Article 50 is unsurprising but unsatisfactory.
“It should not have been like this. Exiting the EU has become chaotic because of intransigence in Brussels and ineffectiveness in London.”
She said it was foolish to limit the UK’s leverage by removing a no-deal option from the table and repeated her opposition to dealing with Jeremy Corbyn.
Most businesses in Northern Ireland have been trenchant in their opposition to a no-deal Brexit.
Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium which represents large retailers, said a further extension, if granted by the EU, could be hugely beneficial if the time was used effectively to break the political impasse in Parliament and approve a deal.
“What Northern Ireland retailers can’t afford to see is a cliff-edge no-deal scenario continuing, with all the pressures that brings.
“Across Northern Ireland businesses have faced mounting costs as they try to mitigate the disruptive effects of leaving without a deal – the sooner such a risk is taken off the table and we have certainty of the way forward, the better for consumers and retailers.”
He added: “The alternative is a no deal with rising costs that will affect the most vulnerable in our society.”
Nationalist SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the Brexit process had been derailed by “ideological intransigence” from the DUP/European Research Group at Westminster.
He added: “We have said, for a long time, that there is no such thing as a good Brexit.
“It now appears that there is no majority for any kind of Brexit.
“If Westminster can’t back a deal with a backstop to protect interests on this island, then it’s time for the public to be given a say.”
Jim Allister leads the fringe Traditional Unionist Voice party.
He said: “The betrayal of Brexit has taken another stride forward with Mrs May’s further grovelling plea to the EU to stay even longer.
“Democracy is being shredded by the Prime Minister.”