“The Irish Government will not be negotiating on behalf of Northern Ireland”

In case you were wondering what the Brexit ’10-point plan’ was that the BBC reported the North South Ministerial Council agreed today, it’s in the final joint communique of 4th July [pdf file]

FINANCIAL AND EU MATTERS [Implications of UK Referendum]

8. The Council had a detailed discussion on the potential impact of the UK referendum result to leave the EU. In order to optimise joint planning and engagement on key issues arising following the UK referendum result, the NSMC:

• Agreed to work together to ensure that Northern Ireland’s interests are protected and advanced and the benefits of North/South co-operation are fully recognised in any new arrangements which emerge as regards the United Kingdom’s future relationship with the European Union; • Noted that there are a number of priority areas where implications arise, but particularly including:

• The Economy and trade

• Northern Ireland and British Irish Relations

• The Common Travel Area

• The EU.

• Agreed that a full audit will be undertaken in all sectors to identify the possible impacts, risks, opportunities and contingencies arising in the phases preceding and following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU;

• Agreed that this work will in turn be submitted to ministerial sectoral meetings for consideration as to the strategic and cross-cutting issues arising and that final priorities will be agreed by the next NSMC Plenary for both pre-negotiation and negotiation phases;

• Agreed that a further discussion on the implications of the referendum result will take place at the next NSMC Plenary;

• Agreed that the NSMC can provide a useful forum for ongoing discussion on relevant matters;

• Re-iterated the joint commitment of the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to the successful implementation of the PEACE and INTERREG programmes, and agreed that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Northern Ireland Finance Minister will consider the issue of securing the ERDF funding for PEACE and INTERREG, including through engagement with the European Commission;

• Agreed that the frequency of the briefings on relevant EU matters provided by the Irish Government for senior Northern Ireland officials should increase and include consideration of issues arising from the referendum decision;

• Agreed that the Irish Permanent Representation in Brussels and the Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels will continue and intensify their close working relationship; and

• Noted and welcomed Prime Minister Cameron’s clear commitment to engagement of the Northern Ireland Executive in the United Kingdom’s negotiating process with the European Union.

No mention of the apparently aborted proposal for “a forum to work on all-Ireland issues in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the EU” – prematurely welcomed by the SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, and the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness.

The Northern Ireland First Minister, the DUP’s Arlene Foster, pointed out at the NSMC press conference that the idea “was not discussed” with her ahead of the meeting.

As the RTÉ report notes

Enda Kenny wants to set up an all-Island forum to discuss what position to adopt in the exit negotiations between the EU and the UK.

But speaking at a press conference this afternoon the Taoiseach said that idea was not discussed at this morning’s North South Ministerial meeting.

First Minister Arlene Foster also said she was not consulted on an all-Ireland forum to discuss the implications of the UK leaving the EU.

She said there are a number of mechanisms already in place and another forum was not needed.

The SDLP and Sinn Féin both support the idea of an all-island forum, but the Democratic Unionists have said the [Irish] Government cannot speak for the region in any forthcoming negotiations.

Some 56% of voters in Northern Ireland wanted to stay within the EU while 44% opted to leave.

Overall the UK voted to leave the EU by a slim majority of 52% to 48%.

During an appearance on BBC’s Sunday Politics, the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson was adamant that the future of Northern Ireland should be decided by the UK government and Stormont Executive.

“The Irish Government will not be negotiating on behalf of Northern Ireland – it will be the UK government and the Northern Ireland Executive will be part of that,” he said.

And the Irish Government can have whatever discussions it needs to have with the Northern Ireland Executive…

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