Prime Minister responds to Foster and McGuinness Brexit letter

Prime Minister responds to Foster and McGuinness Brexit letter

Martin and ArleneImage copyright
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Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster identified their five key priorities in a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May in August

The prime minister has written to NI’s first and deputy first ministers in response to their Brexit priorities but has given few firm assurances.

Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May in August laying out their priorities.

Mrs May restated the position that the government wants to see the maintenance of the Common Travel Area (CTA).

The CTA allows free movement of British and Irish citizens between the two islands.

Five key areas

In the letter, the Northern Ireland leaders identified five key areas.

They were the border, trading costs, the energy market, drawdown of EU funding and treatment of the agri-food sector.

The first and deputy first ministers said Northern Ireland was unique as the only part of the UK that has a border with an EU member state.

The border must not become a catalyst for illegal activity or create an incentive for those who wish to undermine the peace process, they added.

“Unique issues”

In her letter, Mrs May says the future of the border is “an important priority for the UK as a whole.”

She also says she recognises the “unique issues” raised by the Single Electricity Market and that resolving these will be a priority.

However some of the specifics of the Foster-McGuinness letter are not addressed.

For example, it stated that Northern Ireland businesses need to be able to retain access to “unskilled as well as highly skilled” migrant workers.

It also stated the need to “retain as far as possible, the ease with which we currently trade with EU member states.”

Those issues of migration and market access will be key to the UK’s Brexit negotiation with the EU and are not mentioned in Mrs May’s letter.

While the UK as a whole voted to leave the European Union by 52% to 48%, 56% of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain.

The letter from Theresa May was obtained by the BBC’s Nolan Show.

Reaction

In response to the Prime Minister’s letter, Alliance MLA, Stephen Farry, said: “More concrete assurances are needed from the PM around Northern Ireland’s status in the wake of any Brexit.

“This letter is just words, which do little to address the specific issues raised by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.”

The TUV leader Jim Allister said: “Not surprisingly, the letter from the Prime Minister to the joint First Ministers says nothing.

“Hence, perhaps, the reason why it had to be prized out of them and was not revealed for yesterday’s debate.”

Prime Minister responds to Foster and McGuinness Brexit letter}

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