UK and Irish governments to hold Brexit talks in Belfast
The UK and Irish governments are set to discuss the fallout from the Brexit vote for the first time on Wednesday.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will talk about the impact of the referendum on cross-border relations when they meet in Belfast.
Meetings will also take place with the First and Deputy First Ministers and there will be separate discussions on the divisive issue with SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who has vowed to block any attempts to drag Northern Ireland out of the European Union against its will, and David Ford MLA, leader of the Alliance Party – another advocate of the Remain campaign.
In Northern Ireland, 56% of people voted for Remain.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mr Flanagan said: “It is also my first visit since last Thursday’s referendum and 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 an area for priority attention in all post-referendum negotiations processes, including in relation to the status of the border.”
The implementation of the Stormont House and Fresh Start Agreements as well as the ongoing work on the legacy of the past and the Irish Government’s commitments to north-south infrastructural development will also be on the agenda.
Mr Flanagan added: “My meetings are a welcome opportunity to demonstrate the continuing priority the Government attaches to the ongoing work to support stability, reconciliation and prosperity in Northern Ireland, through the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements.”
Ahead of the discussions, Ms Villiers said: “It is important that the UK Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government continue to work together on the challenges we share.
“We will review the significant progress since our last meeting, including the response to tackling paramilitary activity and new legislation passed in Westminster to implement the Fresh Start Agreement. I am also determined that we consider together how best to make early progress in implementing the legacy institutions in the Stormont House Agreement.
“This is also an important opportunity to discuss last week’s United Kingdom vote to leave the EU and to see how we can ensure that the interests of Northern Ireland are fully protected and advanced.”