N. Ireland Politics

North South Ministerial Council: Brexit dominates cross-border talks

Martin mcGuinness, Enda Kenny, Arlene Foster and Charlie Flanagan
Image caption The meeting of the North South Ministerial Council took place in Armagh

A meeting of the North South Ministerial Council has taken place in Armagh.

Brexit dominated that talks between ministers from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The meeting was hosted by First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

The delegates were significantly split on the issue of Brexit, but all four agreed the meeting had been constructive and worthwhile.

Mr Kenny said it was one of the best meetings on Brexit so far.

He told a press conference that topics covered included the land border, peace funds, treaties and the free movement of people and goods across the island.

He said delegates from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland must work together in the "common interests of the island of Ireland" in order to get the best deal when talks begin.

Mrs Foster said "triangular" discussions between Dublin, London and Belfast would continue.

Tensions

She said: "We will wait to see what happens at the Supreme Court and take it from there."

All 11 senior judges of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom will decide whether the government has the power to trigger Article 50 of the EU Lisbon Treaty to begin Brexit.

Mr McGuinness told the press conference he believes the UK government is not certain what Brexit means so "everything is on the table".

Mr Flanagan said the meeting was "interesting, significant and important".

Mrs Foster's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) campaigned in favour of the UK leaving the European Union, while Sinn Féin and the Irish government both supported the Remain campaign.

These tensions were evident at the last NSMC plenary meeting at Dublin Castle in July, which took place just weeks after the UK's EU referendum result.

Ahead of that meeting, Mr Kenny released a public statement proposing the formation of a new all-Ireland forum to deal with the implications of Brexit.

However, Mrs Foster said she had not been consulted about the idea in advance, adding there were already "more than enough" cross-border bodies to address the issue.

'Remoaners'

When the all-Ireland forum, or "civic dialogue" on Brexit met for the first time earlier this month, unionist parties including the DUP did not attend.

Mrs Foster described it as a "grandstanding exercise" and said she had better things to do than be a "lone voice among remoaners".

Image copyright PA
Image caption First Minister Arlene Foster and Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Enda Kenny discussed Brexit in Dublin's Government Buildings earlier this week

Earlier this week, Mrs Foster travelled to Dublin for talks with Mr Kenny on the implications of Brexit.

It was their first political meeting since she told the DUP conference that Irish government officials were being "sent out around the world to talk down our economy and attempt to poach our investors".

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