DUP and Sinn Fein meet prime minister for Brexit discussions

Prime Minister Theresa May chairs a Joint Ministerial Committee at Cardiff City Hall. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire
Prime Minister Theresa May chairs a Joint Ministerial Committee at Cardiff City Hall. Photo: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Prime Minister Theresa May has met representatives from the DUP and Sinn Fein to discuss Brexit.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and Sinn Fein’s Northern Ireland leader Michelle O’Neill attended the Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) summit in Cardiff on Monday, where ministers discussed issues related to Brexit, including trade, investment and the future of the border.

They were joined by ministers from the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales.

Mrs O’Neill attended the talks in her capacity as health minister, while Mrs Foster was also present although she is no longer first minister.

The DUP said Mrs Foster was entitled under the law to fulfil some of her ministerial functions.

The JMC was the first time Mrs O’Neill had officially met Mrs Foster or Mrs May since she took over from Martin McGuinness, following his resignation as deputy first minister earlier this month.

The DUP was the only major party in Northern Ireland to support Brexit, while Sinn Fein has insisted plans to leave the European Union will be detrimental to Northern Ireland.

Mrs Foster said the meeting was a “useful continuation” of discussion with the Government on the way forward after Article 50 is triggered in March.

She said: “We agreed to intensify our engagement around the exit negotiations and in particular to acknowledge and recognise the circumstances of Northern Ireland.

“Areas such as the single electricity market, the agri-food sector and how we can work with the department for international trade on opportunities for NI.

“I welcomed the clear acknowledgement that the single most important market to NI is the UK market and how that can develop in the future.”

Mrs Foster added: “After the plenary I had a meeting with the Prime Minister where we continued our discussions on the border, the common travel area and dealing with cross border organised crime. We also agreed that we both wanted to see the devolved institutions up and running as quickly as possible after the elections to bring stability back to NI.”

Speaking from Cardiff following the meeting, Mrs O’Neill said she had told the Prime Minister that the UK government should respect how the majority of people in Northern Ireland had voted on the issue of leaving the EU.

She added:“Brexit will be a disaster for the economy north and south. It will introduce a European frontier across Ireland and fundamentally undermine the agreements and all Ireland Institutions.

“I told Prime Minister May that the government at Westminster should respect the vote of the people in the north and that we should be designated special status within the EU. I reminded Theresa May of her governments responsibility to play a full role in resolving the legacy of the conflict including implementing agreements to support all victims equally.”