Sunday 4 December 2016

Minister heads North for Brexit talks

Published 29/06/2016 | 02:30

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan is due in Belfast today for the Government’s first cross-border contacts since the Brexit referendum. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan is due in Belfast today for the Government’s first cross-border contacts since the Brexit referendum. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan is due in Belfast today for the Government's first cross-border contacts since the Brexit referendum.

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Mr Flanagan will meet Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and David Ford of the Alliance Party.

Ms Villiers has moved to quell doubts in the wake of last Thursday's vote by saying the bond between the UK and Ireland can survive long after Brexit.

Minister Flanagan said: "I want again to reassure people that the Irish Government in its contacts with EU partners continues to emphasise that the Northern Ireland and all-island dimensions will be a priority attention in all EU negotiations, including the status of the border."

In the Seanad yesterday Mr Flanagan again rejected Sinn Féin's calls for a border poll in the aftermath of UK voters' decision last Thursday to quit the EU.

He said he fully understood the motivations of those who called for a referendum, which is provided for in the Belfast Agreement.

But he said the Secretary of State for the North must deem it likely that a majority of voters were ready to back a united Ireland before such a poll could happen. At present there was no evidence to suggest that such an outcome was likely.

"The fact that 56pc of those who voted in Northern Ireland on Thursday chose to remain in the EU does not mean that a majority of its electorate would similarly vote for a united Ireland,'' Mr Flanagan said.

Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond warned that a "vengeful European Union'' could now damage Irish interests. He said a Polish MEP, Danuta Hubner, had wrongly claimed English would no longer be an official language in a post-Brexit EU, and he criticised foreign ministers from the six founding nations of the EEC for meeting separately.

Irish Independent

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