Finance Minister says NI left out of Brexit negotiations: UK Gov won’t underwrite current EU funding for NI

NICVA Big Ideas Festival of Economics eventDuring a question and answer session (MP3) following his brief speech at the start of NICVA’s Big Ideas: Festival of Economics, Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir indicated that Northern Ireland was being left out of post-Brexit decision making in London.

[A separate blog post details more about the day long festival and includes audio of the main talks and panels.]

He also felt it was likely the British Government would not underwrite the “half of” current EU INTERREG and PEACE funding, adding that he expected farm payments would “fall off a cliff in 2020”.

Here’s a transcript of part of the discussion:

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir: Thus far there has been no fulfilling of the commitment that the Executive would have a place in negotiations … This week and last week in London they were making decisions on how they would proceed with the PEACE and INTERREG monies. Those decisions are being made as we speak, in fact we’re expecting a letter today …

Seamus McKee: [interrupts] in Brussels?

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir: Brussels my arse, as they say. It’ll be made in London. There has been no effort at all – not a phone call, not a letter, not an email – to say to us what do you think we should do with the PEACE money and the INTERREG money? Not a word. And we do expect that letter today. So the promise of Theresa May made and the homily she gave outside Number 10 and the commitment she said that we want to all work together … that has not been fulfilled.

Seamus McKee: Did you really expect it to be fulfilled?

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir: Well I always certainly give someone at least a week before I fall out with them. And with Theresa May it’s a month ago she said that it was going to be a fresh start – and we love that word ‘fresh start’ here – but that is going to be a big issue because for me I do believe that if Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness are front and are at centre at the table it will make a difference. But what is happening at the minute gives a lie to that. We’ll see how that goes if we get the letter today. But it’s not something we should accept that after saying one thing publicly, in fact what they are doing is negotiating on our behalf and making crucial decisions ….

Seamus McKee: Just remind us what’s to be in this letter?

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir: The letter will say how the British Government will proceed in terms of INTERREG money, PEACE money and farm payments between now and 2020 … We believe they have made their decision on that [substituting EU funds] and we believe it won’t be favourable to us and we believe they will announce that by fate to us.

Seamus McKee: … You’re suggesting that you don’t expect the British Government to substitute for the EU funding?

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir: I think they won’t go far enough. That’s our feeling.

Seamus McKee: Does that put jobs at risk?

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir: Oh, absolutely … We think the British Government is about to make a decision that will put in peril [funding] … If you look at PEACE and INTERREG there’s 500 million due between now and 2020 and we don’t they’ll underwrite all all of that and we don’t believe they’ll underwrite half of it. Farm payments we believe will be different but we expect they’ll fall off a cliff in 2020.

– – –

Update: Just after midnight the Department of Finance issued a statement on their out of hours blog.

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has said that short term assurances provided by the Chancellor around EU funding do not go far enough.

The Minister said: “Prior to the referendum, the European Union had agreed to contribute over €1.2 billion to Structural and Investment Fund programmes in the north scheduled to run between 2014 and 2020. This includes contributions to the cross border PEACE IV and INTERREG VA Programmes. The decision today not to underwrite that sum in relation to EU funds from now to 2020 is a setback to the economy and a failure by the British government to match European support for the peace process.

“Despite the promise of the British Prime Minister to act in the interests of all, there has been no attempt to consult with myself, the Executive or the Irish Government, about the best way forward in relation to European funds.

“While the decision to honour letters of offer issued up to November will help some applicants for EU funds, it will leave a question mark over scores of other vital projects and means potentially up to £300m of future funding is in peril.

“I have discussed this issue with the Chancellor and with my counterparts in Scotland and Wales, calling on the British Government to give a commitment that devolved administrations would not lose a penny of EU related funding streams. I have also written to the European Commissioner for Regional Policy with Ireland’s Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, and reiterated the joint support of the Executive and the Irish Government for our cross border PEACE and INTERREG programmes.”

The Minister continued: “Rather than providing the certainty needed following the EU referendum this short-sighted decision could deepen the economic blow. It is clear the Executive needs to be front and centre in decisions around Europe and in all negotiations on these crucially important issues.”

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  • Kevin Breslin

    Dependency, you are attacking entrepreneurial business people from the EU nations who’ve made networks around the globe, from either some seat behind a computer screen or holding up a mobile device. My basic arguement is there was no barrier to prevent trade with nations outside Europe bar not having the strength of individual abilities and networks and the weakness of ideological, political and cultural prejudices that often arise from monoculturalism and parochialism.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Have a look in the Linen Hall Library or in other archive places, I’m sure there’s some kind of political counternarrative to the reemergence of Irish nationalism. If you want to paint a picture that the motives were purely sectarian, explain how Protestants like William Drennan came to the cause.

  • Kevin Breslin

    So reading your rather bitter response and lack of presentation of evidence, it’s opinion then. Opinions being like rectums of course.

  • chrisjones2

    We are not a colony …we are an integral part of HM United Kingdom. Now rejoice that soon we will be free

  • chrisjones2

    Oh steady on old chap …….

  • 1729torus

    It doesn’t predict left, right, liberal or fascist nationalism which obviously depends on the specific culture at hand.

  • chrisjones2

    Sadiq says he wont order any more Boris Buses …because they are called Boris buses. One presumes he will opt for a different version pained a different colour. Though how he will manage that with fair tendering processes will be interesting to see

  • chrisjones2

    “Attacking” …..yet again you go off on one at the faintest suggestion that people here should export and compete. Pf course we have competitors. There is competition for the trade. Encouraging that isnt ‘attacking’ people ….its generally about getting an advantage in price or quality to gain the business

    ” the weakness of ideological, political and cultural prejudices that often arise from monoculturalism and parochialism .”

    Forgive me and I mean this kindly but jkust look at your own focus on European-ism and the EU Market and then you complain of “monoculturalism and parochialism” . Come on Kevin. There’s a big world out there and big prizes to be gained away from the dank dark realm of the failing sclerotic EU

  • chrisjones2

  • chrisjones2

    Well the polls suggest that that matches what the voters want

  • T.E.Lawrence

    A very long time since I was in that place ! The last time I was there I was leaving some old loyalist political literature and communications into the political history section. In relation to your last point both Irish Nationalism and Unionism did not specifically go out of its way to be sectarian but inevitably got sucked into sectarian populist politics. The nature of the beast of Irish Politics !

  • notimetoshine

    So the Brexit campaign essentially sold an unkown then. Nothing that they said can be trusted to happen. That’s very democratic I’m sure.

  • notimetoshine

    So essentially the Brexit campaign was based on a hope and a prayer? And as for planning, an exact list of what was needed, likely responses and counter responses and the groundwork for how our relationship with Europe would look like would have been immensely helpful.

    I’m horrified that you think it was acceptable to just hope for the best, much like brexiters. Makes me despair for the negotiations.

  • chrisjones2

    See above on the Chancellors statement. Yours was waffle waffle nonsense

  • Kevin Breslin

    Here’s the thing, you get trade with non-EU countries by actually going to these places, throwing off the shackles of prejudice and self doubt and making positive deals to buy and sell in a market. National stereotypes give a false impression and only confine a business person to a narrow market.

    Also, lose the vitriol, the only “nations” looking for fanatics who want to see European nations fall into the toilet and base their deals on that premise are the likes of Da’esh. For some reason I don’t see the Brexiteers following through and using that hatred of Europe (and NATO allies), Muslims, Refugees, Liberals or whatever usefully as a skill to stimulate UK exports. Only way would there’s an iota of it being useful, is to focus energies to the international arms industry again, and that’s unlikely when they’ve got budget issues stocking their own defence hardware.

    Pretty much that is the only way to turn hating everything into a competitive economic advantage in the world. That and dark comedy, and there hasn’t been a decent one of those from Britain since Blackadder I’m afraid.

    Vitriol is only a good export if you want to start a war. I’m sure some on the wrathful right might want that, but determination like that could be put to a much better outlet, literally any outlet would be better.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Absolutely, I agree that both unionist and nationalist politics were materialistic … Indeed before the Easter rebellion a lot of Irish Catholics were unionist and probably anti-Home Rule too. The Repeal Movement had its origins in the Catholic Emancipation movement but even the father of the union Lord Castlereagh supported. Had it not been for sympathetic Protestants the voting rights for Catholics would not have passed through in house legislation but as a result of mass outside agitation.

  • John Collins

    Yes and it also sat on its posterior re developing power plants.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    I would expect a review of funding. I would expect stupid funding to be canceled. Who would argue against this?

  • NotNowJohnny

    Which of the EU funds currently operating in Northern Ireland do you classify as ‘stupid’?

  • chrisjones2

    £200k for Loyalist Bands?

  • NotNowJohnny

    The 200k funding for loyalist bands is not EU funding. It is Executive funding provided by the Department for Communities through the Arts Council. This ‘stupid’ funding was abolished by Sinn Fein Minister Caral Ni Chuilin last year but was recently reinstated by the DUP’s Paul Givan. Of course once the UK leaves the EU any replacement for EU funds provided by the UK government will then be for the Executive to determine how they are spent. With the DUP in charge of the DfC you can then look forward to more funds being allocated to ‘stupid’ projects. Yet another good reason for staying in the EU.

  • chrisjones2

    Yes another for NOT staying in the EU and cutting the NI Block Grant

  • chrisjones2

    Do you seriously think that when MARLENE signed that they didn’t know what was coming?

    Its called choreography old chap

  • chrisjones2

    And the EU have a plan too for a new EU plan that will further erode your rights to be governed by those you elect …… but dont worry. You dont need to see it. Nanny knows best and you are only a citizenith no right to knoww

  • chrisjones2

    I dont want to see the EU fail. I voted to join it. I was originally in favour of joining the Euro but I have watched and seen the error of my ways. I have seen what the EU has become and where it is going. I have been forced to the view that Brexit is vital as I believe the Eu will not last another 20 years or iof it does will come attached with the rise of far right organisations and internal conflicts as it destroys communities in the North and the economies of the south. A Europe of a uniform mid grey sludge is not something that attracts

  • chrisjones2

    Personally I am a bottom man

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m afraid I just don’t see how the DUP using Executive funds to support “stupid” projects provides a reason for not staying in the EU.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’ve no idea what your point is here.

  • Roger

    Immensely helpful no doubt.
    Obviously impossible no doubt too.

  • chrisjones2

    Quite simply I dont believe in coincidence and suspect MARLENE knew all about the Hammond letter / announcement before they sent their ‘demand’.

    The Finance Minister seems not to have known or if he did know to have very stupidly decided to scare monger knowing he would be exposed within hours. He is not a stupid man.

    SO why is there such a gap between Finance and Marlene? All those advisers and SPADs and this mess?

  • notimetoshine

    Not impossible, OK you can’t predict everything, but one could have a fair idea of what liely outcomes and responses from Europe were going to be. With that in mind informed strategies an planning options should have been in place.

  • Roger

    It didn’t produce a plan for Scottish independence.

  • Roger

    I don’t think any one today can predict the outcomes or responses. It would have been no easier 2 or 3 months ago.

  • notimetoshine

    So essentially what you are saying is that we should just jump into one of the most momentous political events of the last 50 years, and not consider the consequences of it?

    Irresponsible, just shows how poor the quality of political discourse is in the UK these days. Who cares for the practicalities when we have parties rhetoric.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oh right so Blackshirts did not exist when the UK were out of the EU. If people think that leaving the EU stops their fellow nationals from going to the far right they are ignoring the presence of the far right in Ukraine, in Belarus, in Turkey, Russia, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland.

    Even in countries like Belarus, Ukraine, Bulgaria none of which are in Schegen, with the tough right wing regimes that UKIP want running the UK permenantly, there is still agitation and anger. The pro-Brexit Right are behaving like the post UWS DUP, or the post Hunger Strike Sinn Féin, being triumphalist that they had “won” but deluding themselves that they had stopped the major causes of the problems in their community and made life easier for themselves in the process. Obviously they did not.

    We will see once the dust settles it was the local actions of human beings that was to blame for community and economic destruction. I am extremely sceptical that the corporates who destroyed the Greek economy would not do so if it was out of the EU, or that social problems in countries caused by bad governing won’t get changed.

    If there isn’t enough altruism in a country, being outside the EU isn’t a magic bullet to stop the problems festering within. I think having the EU did give people options to network politically for better or worse, but the issues will simply become concentrated by isolationists who will destroy networks other than their own and simply fight both social diversity and differentiation within their homeland.

    The decline of differentiation increases economic problems, and enforcing anti-diversity causes political ones. Monoculturalism is anarchistic, anti-technological, anti-commercial, and anti-social. Instead of dividing up control among the specialist, everyone has to be a jack of all trades to conform to culture.

    Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood, Paisley’s Sermons on Soapboxes, Ò’Bradaigh and the Border campaign, all these issues were happening and all three were Eurosceptic before there was even an EEC.

    The UK won’t take control of problems it refused to take control of previously, simply because of the emergence of some loving Spirit of Brexit … There was no outpouring of the milk of human kindness after the Ulster Worker’s Strike or the Hunger Strikes, so another successful egotistical vendetta is just as likely to live up to that trend too.

    Tackling migration will be done despite Brexit (being outside the EU doesn’t fix them, and neither does Australian points), trade problems will have to be sorted despite Brexit
    (Many of these issues are not down to the EU) social problems despite Brexit, community issues despite Brexit.

    The U.K. was 1/8th of what the EU was population wise, that is on par with pre famine Ireland and the U.K., it is more than Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland together have in terms of a say in the UK. There has to be responsibility for what UK did as a member of the EU to cause these problems in Europe, even from Eurosceptics.

    We are merely seeing Pilate like behaviour from people who see every problem but cannot address or take responsibility for any. This was a problem in the EU, it is a problem outside the EU. Brexit, or any other nation leaving the EU changes nothing. At least in the EU nations could take collective responsibility for problems they could not tackle alone. Outside the EU, denial is paramount.

  • Roger

    I’m not taking a position here on Brexit. I personally think it’s likely to result in an economically poorer and politically more marginalised UK. The UK decided to put the EU to a vote. There was a wide ranging debate over many months. The uncertainty and potential consequences that a leave vote would create were loudly debated. There were no crystal balls. There are none now. No amount of discourse and there was a great deal could have changed that. It was a momentous huge decision. By its nature what exactly it meant had to be uncertain. There was and is no magic wand.

  • lizmcneill

    Please explain how leaving the European institutions that are explicitly mentioned or implied in the GFA will promote peace.

    Also, please explain what these great opportunities are and how they counteract the hampering of trade and employment with Ireland that Brexit will involve.

  • chrisjones2

    Ah so the Brits are now responsible for all the problems of the EU. The reality is that it is a profoundly undemocratic institution where even the mighty Germany at the core of the project has limited influence beyond paying the bills

    It all unable and incapable of reform and in my view will ultimately implode.The UK staying in will do nothing to fix that. Leaving may be even better in emboldening those seeking reform to do fix it. Good luck to them.

    The Corporates didnt destroy the Greek economy. Thats like blaming all Ireland’s woes on the banks. In Greece the accounts were falsified when it joined. it should never have been allowed into the Euro. The whole economy and tax system was like a Craps Game. Tax avoidance and fraud were the national sport linked to petty corruption. It takes an entire culture to do that. The EU cant fix it and we cant fix it. Only the Greeks can and there is no sign they really will.

    Italy looks next but on a much bigger scales and for different reasons

    The UK will not avoid all the risk in this as we are linked heavily tothe Eu and always will be. But we minimise our losses and show that there is an alternative

    Again I think you need some perspective.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The Brits are responsible for around an eighth of them, I would say, the problems they’ve collectively inflicted on their own people and others.

    The EU is remarkably democratic as national governments and elected MEPs, most trade bodies prioritise the governing above the governed, just like the UK used to be, but the European Parliament gives the citizenry a major say in the management of the single market. The pro-Brexit U.K. Trade commissioner was found guilty of bringing his corporate friend into a defence brief in order to boost his business. Not a great emancipator of the citizenry.

    The fact that neither the UK or Germany reigns tall above all, means that the democracy of the common market is healthy, political groups can find quorums other than Anglo-German ones, at the end of the day the rest of the EU does pay in more net than these two countries put together, and have around 3/4 of the population.

    My belief is that the UK political itself is unreformable, at least in the short term, there are people like Rees Moog and Gove who want the place stuck in a 1950’s time loop and don’t like that geopolitics and thermodynamics are ruining the UK from being a steady state, the Revolution that the Vote Leave side was only a revolution in the sense it had so many turns it began to spiral in on itself, so it’s left to Evolution and having an external environment the nation is no longer willing to influence to decide its internal fate, as was the case in the UK (and the fellow isolationist Anglosphere dependent Free State too) in the post war years.

  • chrisjones2

    Those are your own views and you are entitled to them …no matter how biased, irrational and ill considered and sheer mad others may see them. I suggest you sit back and read that last paragraph of your post – one sentence 11 lines long – and ask yourself is it really balanced or rational or magic realism

    In the meantime I am disengaging purely because I do not wish to wind you up even more.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I know pro-Leave supporters who agree with me that the UK has been causing itself problems domestically, and often the EU is a scapegoat for many of its own mistakes. I also know pro-Leave supporters who agree that the UK “democratic” system is not democratic.

    There are Leave supporters who think other Leave supporters are kidding themselves about Brexit making border control or trade even easier or that isolating themselves from Europe/EU would lead to a way out of economic slowdown within the UK.

    And also it was the Leave supporters who told the general public that nothing guaranteed by the official leave campaign can be really guaranteed.

    So I think I am balanced when I say the UK has not been a proper European democracy outside ironically the European elections, and when I say that a major obstacle to its independence so to speak was the inability to take responsibility for its own risky decisions.

    Indeed in terms of the health of UK democracy, you can find evidence for this in the problems in both the Labour Party and Conservative party even UKIP too show that not all is well. So quick to attack some changing in the guard in other nation’s politics, but blind to seeing it happen within. I haven’t even mentioned the rise of the SNP or Plaid.

    The U.K. is not the special exception from European social, political and economic issues that it thinks it is. If it makes the same decisions as unaccountable populists in Europe, it ends up suffering when they get into office and can’t deliver their manna from heaven.

  • chrisjones2

    Which Institutions?

    As far as Trade goes the UK wants to trade, Ireland wants to trade…the only barrier may be French led bureaucrats in the Commission

  • chrisjones2

    That is nonsense…there are many regions in France and Spain where the same applies and there are regional assemblies / councils dominated by regional parties

    For example if a Conservative or even UUP or DUP member from NI took the whip with one of the major UK parties they might well hold office at Westminster

  • chrisjones2

    Sorry you still haven’t replied. What institutions set out in the GFA do you see us leaving?

  • lizmcneill

    Calm down, some of us have jobs to do and can’t sit commenting on Slugger all day.

    If we’re lucky May’s and the Tories’ political capital will be sufficiently destroyed by Brexit that she won’t be able to move on to her pet project of replacing the ECHR with some “British Bill of Rights” which obviously couldn’t apply to both Irish and NI residents, for one.

    And nothing in the GFA provisions around the border ever envisioned that it could change into an external EU border. Free trade goes with free movement which the Brexiteers have been whinging about for the last year, so how can we have free trade if the English insist on no free movement?

  • chrisjones2

    You said institutions. There arent any affected by Brexit

    ECHR has absolutely nothing to do with the EU. Nada. Nothing at all. Completely separate issue with different institution.

    As for the border – so what. That can be dealt with in bilateral negotiations with the Irish, They can then square off any agreement with their Imperial masters in Brussels. HMG in the UK have made it clear they want no change and no-one in NI has yet suggested any change

    No free movement means no free right to enter settle and work in the UK. That doesn’t mean that there cannot be a free travel zone or even a bilateral agreement with Ireland on working in the UK. We have had that for 100 years so why change?