Wednesday 22 May 2019

Foster won't attend any future All-Ireland forums on dealing with Brexit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny met with First Minister Arlene Foster at Government Buildings yesterday evening. Photo: Mark Condren.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny met with First Minister Arlene Foster at Government Buildings yesterday evening. Photo: Mark Condren.

Philip Ryan and Colm Kelpie

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster has ruled out attending any future All -Ireland Brexit forums following her first meeting in Government Buildings with Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Mr Kenny and Ms Foster held a meeting in Dublin yesterday evening to discuss a shared approach to Britain's decision to leave the European Union ahead of a crunch North South Ministerial Council meeting in Armagh on Friday.

However, despite both politicians describing the meeting as constructive, Ms Foster insisted she will not attend any Ireland-based Brexit forums.

The First Minister caused controversy when she snubbed the forum hosted by Taoiseach in Dublin last month.

Speaking in Government Buildings, Ms Foster said she her position on the Brexit Forum was "very clear" and insisted she "will not be changing" her stance.

"What I want is to get on with doing the business and that's what we have been doing today and we will continue to do on the North South Ministerial Council," she said. "It's not about a public face it's about doing work and that's what we are engaged in here today."

Both Ms Foster and Mr Kenny raised the prospect of holding an early ministerial council meeting next year ahead of the British government triggering Article 50 by the end of March, which will officially begin the Brexit process.

Asked about her claim that Irish State agencies were talking down Northern Ireland as part of an effort to lure jobs from the region, Ms Foster said: "We are not going to agree on everything".

"We are competitors in terms of foreign direct investment but what tonight's meeting was about was those areas we do want to agree on," she said.

However, she said the North and South have a "very strong" and "mature relationship" which will "develop even more in the future".

Ms Foster also said she would be willing to speak before the Seanad or Dáil if she was asked.

The Taoiseach said he will work "very closely" with Ms Foster throughout the Brexit process.

"(We will) work in the terms of the common ground we have here and work in the interest of the people of Ireland with particular reference to the areas of common travel in the Border areas and the economies that are interlinked for so many years," he said.

Meanwhile, the British government has denied claims in a leaked document that there are divisions in the UK cabinet over Brexit.

The document, reportedly prepared by consultancy firm Deloitte for the government department that supports the prime minister and her cabinet, claims there are major issues around preparations for Brexit, with criticisms of Theresa May's leadership style and ministers divided.

It also said that no common strategy had emerged.

It casts preparations by the UK government in a poor light, stating Britain may need another six months to agree on its priorities.

But Number 10 said the report, leaked to 'The Times', was "unsolicited" and had not been commissioned by the Government.

It also denied that it was a cabinet office memo.

Elsewhere, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson branded as "b******s" the assertion that the free movement of people is a fundamental right of the European Union (EU).

Irish Independent

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