Wednesday 22 November 2017

North, Scotland mystified by May's 'bespoke Brexit' pledge

British Prime Minister Theresa May (centre left) at the joint ministerial council meeting in Downing Street Picture: PA
British Prime Minister Theresa May (centre left) at the joint ministerial council meeting in Downing Street Picture: PA
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Martin McGuinness and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed their frustration following Brexit talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May at Downing Street.

The leaders of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales met with Ms May yesterday, with the prime minister promising to secure a "bespoke Brexit deal that works for the whole of the UK".

In a statement following the two-hour gathering, Number 10 said the prime minister had told the leaders that she wanted their input in shaping the negotiations, and that the final agreement will make a success of Brexit "for everyone in the Union".

But Ms Sturgeon said after the meeting that she still has no idea what the UK government's negotiating position is.

"We discussed the UK's negotiating position in general, but it is safe to say we got no more information or detail on that than we had before we went into the meeting, and I got the strong sense the UK government itself doesn't know what it is trying to achieve," she told the BBC.

"That is why many parts of the meeting were deeply frustrating, because we felt as if we weren't getting any greater insight into the thinking of the UK government."

Her frustration was shared by Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who told the Irish Independent that there is still doubt about the objectives of the British government.

"We're all working in good faith on the basis that there is a plan to have meetings over the course of the coming weeks and months right through until March of next year to try to ascertain if it's possible to agree a position between the devolved administrations and the British government," Mr McGuinness said.

"The frustration which Nicola is talking about, which I share, is the lack of information about precisely what objectives the British prime minister has in relation to the outworking of this negotiation and what she is going to face when it comes to triggering Article 50. I share those concerns."

Mr McGuinness said Ms May reiterated that she did not want to see a return to the borders of the past.

The meeting was attended by Ms Sturgeon, Mr McGuinness, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and her Welsh counterpart Carwyn Jones.

Mr Jones said it was difficult for the devolved administrations to influence the process when there was so much uncertainty over what the government was seeking.

But Ms May said that if the devolved nations work together, they can make a success of Brexit.

"The country is facing a negotiation of tremendous importance and it is imperative that the devolved administrations play their part in making it work," she said.

In a joint statement, Ms Foster and Mr McGuinness said the Northern Ireland Executive needs to be fully represented in the negotiations.

Meanwhile, UK broadcaster ITV is planning to shed 120 jobs due to "economic uncertainty".

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Business Newsletter

Read the leading stories from the world of Business.

Promoted Links

Also in Business